A football season of profound change, loaded to the brim with questions and gut-wrenching choices for Coach Joe Gibbs, dawns today for the Washington Redskins in the hills of southern Pennsylvania.
Is there life after Riggo and Joe T.? Will Mark Moseley hang on to his job for another year? Can Jay Schroeder's National Football League honeymoon continue? Will George Rogers ever be a Hog?
Ready or not, the 1986 season officially begins today when rookies, free agents and selected veterans report for training camp in Carlisle, Pa., home of Jim Thorpe, Dickinson College and 24 summers of Redskins hopes and dreams.
For a team only 2 1/2 years removed from the Super Bowl, the Redskins are reassigning an awful lot of lockers and are getting ready to make a rosterful of decisions. Often, answers come slowly in football, but in the next 33 steamy days, as many as 50 players now on the 117-man Redskins roster will lose their jobs, and another handful or so will find themselves on the injured reserve list. Most of those remaining will be fighting for their football lives, waiting for the final 45-player roster to be announced.
Players are released, injured and nervous every training camp, but this one is different, Gibbs says. This time, the Redskins, who last season didn't make the playoffs for the first time since 1981, are threatening to make a complete break with their recent Super Bowl past and are beginning to stare their late-1980s future square in the face.
"There's a good chance players who were key performers in our Super Bowl years won't be here and young players will come in," Gibbs said. "There will always be a question mark in training camp , but as you look at us, I think there will be more question marks this year.
"I think everybody knows this is going to be a different year for the Redskins than we've had for quite a while."
Don't ask Gibbs to name names, because he won't, at least not yet. After all, this is only July, and the regular season doesn't begin until Sept. 7 at RFK Stadium against Philadelphia.
But Gibbs recently gave some hints, talking about do-or-perhaps-die duels at most positions: "Dave Butz against top draft choice Markus Koch" and " oft-injured Bob Slater versus Darryl Grant."
They are defensive tackles, certainly not the most celebrated players on this team. They all may make the final cut. But Butz, who is in the final season of a two-year contract, showed up at minicamp in May for the first time in recent memory, perhaps knowing how serious the competition is this year.
It's happening everywhere. General Manager Bobby Beathard said that besides Rogers, the team's $2 million man, no running back is safe.
Art Monk and Gary Clark are the top two receivers, but who's No. 3 or No. 4? The Redskins brass says it doesn't know.
The Redskins also are paying particular attention to linebackers and defensive backs, Beathard said. Veterans may be vulnerable. Just ask kicker Moseley, who at age 38 has four people trying to take his job. One of them is punter Steve Cox, who has received scores of pointers on kicking field goals from -- who else? -- Moseley.
But the glitziest issue of all is the future of someone who almost certainly never again will play for the Redskins. Joe Theismann is expected to make a brief appearance in Carlisle, perhaps when the majority of the veterans report next weekend, to have his right leg checked. In all likelihood, team doctors will tell him he cannot play. Theismann then is expected to retire to a career as a color commentator for CBS-TV, a Virginia restaurateur and a motivational speaker.
Want Theismann for your next banquet? The folks who planned the recent Arizona State Bar Convention paid Theismann $9,000 for a 30-minute speech. Perhaps Theismann won't miss football as much as he thought, especially if he eventually cashes in on his $1.4 million Lloyd's of London insurance policy for a career-ending injury.
Although they haven't officially said it, Redskins coaches already have a kiddie corps quarterback depth chart dancing through their minds, sans Theismann: Jay Schroeder, 25; Babe Laufenberg, 26; rookie Mark Rypien, 23. (Free agent Stan Yagiello is 23.)
"Right now," said Beathard, "we have the group that we are planning to work with."
It's likely that the Redskins will keep three quarterbacks this season, not two, as they chose to do last year. Why? The threat of injuries never leaves Gibbs' mind, especially at the position he personally oversees. Plus, the Redskins could make room for the extra quarterback if they chose to keep only three tight ends with the retirement of veteran Rick Walker.
The changing of the guard continues in the backfield. John Riggins, who was released in March but who seemed to miss the beginning of most training camps anyway, has gone on vacation for the next few weeks, destination unknown. What he will do when he gets back is just as uncertain. The Redskins hope Rogers, their leading rusher in 1985, will stop fumbling now that he won't have Riggins watching from the sidelines.
The Redskins believe they are strongest where a team likes to be strongest: on the offensive and defensive lines -- if they stay healthy. Injuries on the offensive line were a most distressing footnote to the Redskins' last two seasons.
Will it be three? Former Pro Bowl guard R.C. Thielemann's injured knee could be a concern, Gibbs said last week.
But now is not the time to worry. You worry in August. You hope in July.
"I think of going to training camp in two ways," Gibbs said. "You're kinda sorry the summer is over, but the other side is, you're excited about starting something new, about maybe doing something great."
Duane Gunn, a rookie free agent from Indiana University signed by the Redskins, was arrested yesterday morning in Indianapolis and charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, according to Indianapolis police.
Gunn, 24, a 6-foot, 185-pound wide receiver, was arrested at 3 a.m. and released on $1,000 bond later in the morning, police said.
The police report gave this account of the incident: Gunn appeared "to be under the influence of some type of stimulant." Gunn refused to leave the Don't Ask Incorporated nightclub, and, after being removed by a bouncer, shoved the bouncer's head into a glass door. Gunn left but returned, and he was asked to leave several times by police officer James E. Traut. Traut then arrested Gunn for disorderly conduct. Gunn refused to wear handcuffs and, after a three- or four-minute struggle, he was charged with resisting arrest.
Gunn is scheduled to appear for arraignment Monday morning at 9.
Redskins spokesman John Konoza said: "We know nothing about this as of right now. We still expect Duane to be in tonight Saturday ."
Staff writer Greg Dowling contributed to this report.