November 21, 1982: Redskins Bring It All Back, Outwork Giants; Layoff No Bar To Productivity
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., Nov. 21, 1982 -- It may have been because they are mostly New Yorkers, or because they are mostly sophisticated about football. Whatever, fans here booed lustily not for the Giants missing the last eight weeks of the season but for playing the first eight minutes of the game today.
The unbeaten gang, the Redskins, weren’t perfect. But only one play, that blocked punt early in the third quarter, might anger a coach enough to kick his projector. The rest was more splendid than Joe Gibbs dared dream. Everybody who was good before the walkout was at least a wee bit better today.
The cliches even were in, ah, midseason form.
”Came out and went after each other early,” said Dave Butz. He followed that with “the score (27-17) wasn’t indicative of the game.”
A wise man on the Redskins sideline had the best perspective, saying: “You wouldn’t know these guys had been away eight weeks -- unless you put ‘em on a scale.” Playfully, he pinched John Riggins, whose stomach gained a first down past his belt during the inactivity.
So the Redskins whipped a very good defensive team, and dented the American work ethic. Now everybody will demand extra time off, saying: “The Redskins’ productivity increased, so will ours.” The National Symphony won’t toot a note for two months and still sail through Beethoven’s Ninth flawlessly. Alberto Salazar will snooze 57 days and break 2:10 in the marathon.
Seriously, Joe Washington insists some sort of break each season would vastly improve the quality of NFL play. Eight weeks on, one off, eight weeks on again, he suggests.
”It would increase the intensity, cut down on injuries,” he said. “One week off. No practice; no nothing.”
One problem: it makes too much sense to become reality.
”Exactly,” he said.
Joe Theismann, who was wonderful, said the Redskins’ inspired play was a tribute to their “professionalism” and “the caliber of NFL football.”
One of his teammates not far away from the scribes surrounding Theismann after his 16-for-24, two-touchdown, one first-down run day yelled: “There’ll be no getting Joe back out (on strike)! He ain’t talked to no one in nine weeks.”
Center Jeff Bostic said he might vote to go out again; then again he may not.
”Didn’t have no (before-strike) money,” he said. “Still have none.”
Dexter Manley didn’t have a before-strike interception; he has one now.
”One of them lucky days,” he said of more than the catch that enabled Washington to gain a 21-0 lead before the second quarter was four minutes old. Of the interception, he said: “Running a stunt and the blocker pushed me outside. The quarterback took a three-step drop, threw and the ball bounced off somebody to me.”
Smiling, he said of his return for minus two yards: “Didn’t get any blocking.”
Guard Russ Grimm thought Mother Nature deserved a game ball.
”Perfect weather,” he said. “Not hot, where a guy might get fatigued in a hurry; not so cold that you might get a pulled muscle. I was a little sore going in, shoulders and back, from practice. We hadn’t hit anyone for so long.”
Sometimes, the threat of a hit was enough to jolt the Giants.
Joe Morris once had 15 open yards, and a blocker, in front of him. He caught the pass, then fumbled. At least three kicks were muffed.
”I only had one dog play,” honest Butz admitted, “when I didn’t get up off the damn ground soon enough. I thought I’d be in worse shape than I was.”
Shape had nothing to do with Mike Nelms fumbling the kickoff after the Giants narrowed Washington’s lead to 21-10. Redskin Peter Cronan recovered.
”He (Frank Marion, who had blocked that punt moments earlier) hit my arm and the ball with his helmet,” Nelms said. “I saw him coming, too. Thought I’d let him hit me and then bounce off. But it was a great hit.” Nelms looked at a tender spot on his right arm, inches above the wrist, and mused: “Might be him right there.”
Washington’s Washington took the second half off; he wasn’t striking.
”A little hesitant,” he said of his return from a knee injury suffered during the preseason. “But there’s no way for me to hide now. I ran the ball (once, for two yards), cut, changed direction. No problem. I felt normal. It (the layoff) wasn’t like just being off from playing; it was off, period.
”A full (except for one carry) week off before combat won’t hurt. I’ve got a taste now.”
Now that they have another taste of victory, and a mighty whiff of the playoffs with there being only one other unbeaten team in the National Conference (Green Bay), how could the Redskins possibly vote against ratification?
”I probably will, to be honest with you,” linebacker Rich Milot said. “You have to look down the line. But even if we vote no it doesn’t mean we have to go on strike again.”
How many seasons can fans and teams endure?
”We had two last year, remember?” Bostic chirped. “0-5 the first one, 8-3 the second.”