No period at any time of the season covers quite so much emotional turf as the one that spills into today for the Redskins. Careers such as Curtis Jordan's were over before practice even began yesterday; careers such as Clarence Vaughn's officially started well after practice concluded.
That job security in the NFL is only slightly more solid than, say, that of a bomb detonator, rung home with this fact: the starting Redskins safeties in the regular season opener last year were cut yesterday.
And the fellow who joined Ken Coffey and Jordan in the starting Redskins secondary during that 27-point victory over the Eagles, Vernon Dean, survived this season because of his versatility. Dean gives new definition to the term DB, he being the designated backup at both corners, both safeties and at nickel back.
Injuries and fresher bodies created a fairly unusual situation for a team confident at a run for the Super Bowl. Five of the seven positions behind the defensive line will be manned by new players. Sadly, middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz will be sidelined longer than anticipated, six regular season games instead of four.
Jordan's Redskins obit is as difficult to write as it was for Coach Joe Gibbs to make necessary. A job with the word free in it was perfect for Jordan, who volunteered his thoughts with enthusiasm and candor.
"Down deep," he said shortly after succeeding Mark Murphy at free safety, "I think I want to be a pirate." Safety is sort of legal piracy.
He was just your regular unassuming lunch-pail guy who wore an earring, goofy sunglasses and lasted 11 NFL seasons, split almost equally between Washington and Tampa Bay.
Few outside the Redskins were anywhere near certain why Murphy had slipped when Jordan became the regular, before the 1985 season; similarly, it was a surprise to us defensive dolts when Todd Bowles shot past Jordan last week.
Gibbs described Jordan as "a real man" who could have caused internal misery for the Redskins after his demotion, but decided to stay classy to the end. And later.
It would be nice, and perhaps beneficial, if the NFL would create a 46th spot on each roster, for persons such as Jordan. Call 'em quote men, available after games to make the complex not only seem simple but amusing.
Jordan was that rare standup player who accepted blame as easily as success. You arrived at his locker with a question and left with a smile. That's getting to be more and more uncommon as the NFL becomes so corporate.
More than his 17 NFL interceptions, nine fumble recoveries and hundreds of head-on tackles, Jordan is celebrated as a legitimate character. More steady in quote annals than spectacular.
Jordan never delivered any wisdom that will be etched in the football memory, nothing like Blaine Nye's immortal: "It's not whether you win or lose in sports, but who gets the blame."
Sonny Jurgensen was a Redskin with more memorable one-liners. After throwing five touchdown passes his first game back after elbow surgery, Jurgensen was asked by Coach Otto Graham on the team plane whether his arm hurt.
Yes, Jurgensen admitted.
Not unreasonably, the coach asked what his quarterback planned to do about it.
"Drink left-handed," Jurgensen replied.
For consistent availability and good humor, Jordan was close to peerless. Computer terminals throughout NFL press boxes will be dipped in appreciation.
Jordan's departure means the Redskins will keep just three quarterbacks: Jay Schroeder and Doug Williams on offense and Bowles as the defensive signal caller.
Final-cut day is full of intrigue and secrecy in the best of times. Yesterday, the Redskins were so touchy about keeping their maneuvers silent until the last possible instant that reporters were reduced to asking marginal players if they still were on the team.
It made an unnerving day distasteful. Gibbs explained that he wanted to make certain he told each player of his sudden unemployement. He was reacting to a feeling that a player last season had been informed by reporters of being cut.
Truth is, not everybody on the Redskins active roster this morning will be there tonight; two players cut yesterday may play in the season opener.
Call the whole contradiction Benson and hedges, in honor of an obscure Redskin prospect and a system worthy of the Pentagon. What it amounts to is that tight end Cliff Benson may well move from the cut list to the active list, replacing an injured regular, if nobody else in the league claims him.
Fate often plays as much a part as ability in determining NFL rosters. Receiver Derek Holloway had a fine preseason, averaging 35 yards on four catches and scoring a touchdown. Because of injuries elsewhere, he was released.
The statement the Redskins seem to be making, with their roster, is that the speed and good health of youngsters bests veteran savvy. It's been consistent with defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon -- and usually correct.
In the preseason, the Redskins established nearly everything except what characterizes a team as dominant: a solid running game. They may be as close as George Rogers' big toe from achieving that. Like other ailing Redskins parts after an especially damaging preseason, it will arrive tenderly for the opener.