Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs will meet with John Riggins in the next two weeks to decide the veteran running back's future, but indications are that Riggins will not return for another season.
Gibbs, who said he has not made up his mind about Riggins' future with the team, called public discussions concerning Riggins' status for the 1986 season "premature."
Yet Gibbs did say a decision would come soon. He said the meeting, which he originally tried to arrange last week, would take place in the next week to 10 days. It most likely will be at Redskin Park.
"John and I will probably have a real good feeling about things then," Gibbs said.
Gibbs called Riggins earlier this month to try to set up an appointment, but Riggins was in Kansas, his home state.
Riggins declined to comment on his future with the Redskins.
In an interview today at the NFL winter meetings, Gibbs dismissed the idea that a decision already had been made.
"I know many times it's easier to jump out at the end of the season and make a quick decision, but I don't think that's the right way to do it," Gibbs said.
"When you have hard decisions, when you go through the tough decisions, I am slower than most. I'm just naturally slower."
Apparently Gibbs is one of just a few people within the Redskins organization who still believes there is a chance Riggins, 36, will return for his 15th NFL season.
In fact, sources within the club say there is "no chance" Riggins will return for 1986.
Riggins lost his starting job to George Rogers at the end of the 1985 season and did not play in the last three games of the year, even though he was not injured.
Although retirement could be Riggins' most likely alternative, he might try to negotiate with another team if released by the Redskins.
Indications are the Redskins have discussed Riggins with teams around the league but have found no interest in him.
Gibbs said the status of U.S. Football League running back Kelvin Bryant is "not a factor" in his discussion with Riggins.
Bryant, whose NFL rights belong to the Redskins, recently filed a lawsuit against the Baltimore Stars, seeking to be free to negotiate with the Redskins.
Riggins is the second well-known Redskin who this week finds his future very much in doubt. The Redskins are trying to trade quarterback Joe Theismann, and it appears that the Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons are most interested in him.
Rams Coach John Robinson said today that he is interested in obtaining a veteran quarterback. He said he plans to bring in former Falcon and Redskin Steve Bartkowski for a tryout, and would like to bring in Theismann for a tryout once he is able to play.
"It's kind of on hold," Robinson said of discussion with the Redskins about Theismann. "It's not moving in any direction right now. We'd want to see Joe get well before we did anything."
Theismann, 36, suffered a compound fracture of his right leg Nov. 18 and is beginning to work out at Redskin Park.
Atlanta Coach Dan Henning and the Redskins have discussed a possible trade of Theismann for a low-round draft choice.
Seattle Coach Chuck Knox said today that he "likes" Theismann, but has held no talks with the Redskins.