Training camp began today for the Washington Redskins with several common first-day occurrences:
The quarterback (Jay Schroeder, not Joe Theismann) was mobbed first by the media, then by the fans; some of the rookies said they didn't know whether to ask veterans for advice or autographs; the coaches' noses got sunburned; the top draft picks didn't show up.
The training camp that may well become the most competitive in Coach Joe Gibbs' six seasons with the Redskins began full force this morning. It looked like an autumn practice, only rustier. At times, six coaches were watching the passing game, studying quarterbacks and receivers and patterns as if it were Dallas week.
The performance of wide receiver Calvin Muhammad was of particular interest. His job is most definitely in jeopardy, but he is being given one more chance to prove that he did not leave his desire and technique on the 1984 highlight film.
"It seems he's got a different attitude this year," Gibbs said this evening after watching four hours of football. No doubt Gibbs caught a glimpse of a spectacular fingertip grab by Muhammad, which raised eyebrows even if it didn't ensure a spot on the roster.
In the back of most Redskins minds, however, were the continuing contract disputes of second-round draft choices Markus Koch and Walter Murray, who don't appear any closer to signing now than they were before the weekend.
Only three of the National Football League's second-round draft picks have signed contracts, and very few, if any, of the unsigned players appear willing to break from the pack.
To try to prevent a holdout by defensive end Dexter Manley, one of two unsigned veteran free agents (punter/kicker Steve Cox is the other), the Redskins are "threatening to reduce their offer by a designated amount if he's not in camp by July 26," said Richard Bennett, Manley's Washington-based agent.
The Redskins cannot fine Manley, who is supposed to report to camp Saturday with the veterans, because he is not under contract.
It is believed the Redskins are offering Manley, who had a club record-tying 15 sacks last season, about $325,000 in base salary for this season. Manley, who made $225,000 last year, apparently is asking for between $450,000 and $500,000 a year.
The Redskins are believed to be offering a four-year contract, and Manley apparently would prefer something shorter.
"The penalty is not really material because the deal is not acceptable," Bennett said.
He would not comment on the amount of the daily salary reduction. Last season, the Redskins implemented a similar penalty -- reportedly $1,000 a day -- during a holdout by defensive tackle Dave Butz. But it was uncertain whether Butz actually lost the money.
Frank Yip, Murray's agent, said today he doesn't believe his client is being hurt as much by missing training camp as the Redskins say he is. Yip said Murray has been working out at Redskin Park every day. "It would be different if he didn't stay around and work out," Yip said. "At least we know one thing, he's in good shape."
Not to hear Gibbs tell it. "This is a real negative for Koch and Murray , and for us," he said.
While Murray and Koch played hooky, it was a significant day for most of the 80 players who put on uniforms and ran around in the 80-degree heat at Dickinson College's Biddle Field.
For Schroeder, it was the first day of his first full season as the team's top quarterback. "Some of these guys don't even know who I am," he said.
For defensive tackle Bob Slater, it was the beginning of a season unclouded by a knee injury, and he hopes it continues that way.
"It's a little harder than I remember," said Slater, the top draft pick in 1984 who has missed his first two NFL seasons. Gibbs said Slater was a little "rusty," but added quickly, "this is a big step for him."
For guard R.C. Thielemann and defensive tackle Darryl Grant, it was time to swallow a little veteran pride and show up with the rookies to continue rehabilitating injured knees. Thielemann is working all week on agility drills before the coaches and trainers decide if he is healthy enough to play for real. As for Grant, he's just about set.
"I'm at 85 to 90 percent," he said. "I'm behind, but things are looking very good."
For kicker Jess Atkinson and running back Rick Badanjek, former University of Maryland standouts, it was time to try to become a star once again in the Washington area.
Atkinson, one of four kickers trying to take Mark Moseley's job, walked into a barber shop and got himself a crew cut last Saturday.
"I thought it would get me in the right attitude," Atkinson said. "I never had one before, and I'll probably never have one again."
Badanjek was another media attraction today, perhaps because he says things like this:
"This is my childhood dream come true," Badanjek said, gazing across the field. "Well, my dream wasn't to be with the Redskins, but with the Cowboys. Of course, I hate the Cowboys now."