As the 30th anniversary of the Washington Redskins’ 1988 Super Bowl victory arrives Wednesday, there is new support coming from that team’s top players, who believe the replacement players who secured three regular season wins during the player strike should receive Super Bowl rings for their contributions.
“It was instrumental, because those games counted,” said tight end Clint Didier, who caught the final touchdown in the 35-point second quarter of Washington’s 42-10 victory over Denver in Super Bowl XXII. “They counted for our season. It was instrumental. We still got home-field advantage, how the whole playoff picture was put together, the fact that we even made the playoffs. … Yes, it was instrumental, and they played a key part and, honestly, I think all those guys deserve a Super Bowl ring, myself.”
The replacement players, a hodgepodge group of has-beens and never-weres, stood in for the Redskins’ regular roster from Week 4 to Week 6 of the 1987 season while the NFL and its players engaged in a 24-day labor battle. The Redskins’ replacements played, and won, three games, including an improbable Monday night road victory over a Dallas Cowboys team that featured NFL standouts Tony Dorsett, Randy White and Danny White after they crossed the picket line. The Redskins were the only team without a player who crossed the picket line.
The idea of men coming in off the street and taking the jobs of those who were fighting for better workplace treatment and benefits rankled many NFL players, leading to vandalism of the team buses ferrying in the “scabs,” as well as threats and insults hurled by the regulars toward the replacements.
Didier, however, said he doesn’t begrudge those players for occupying roster spots reserved for regular players.
“It was their only chance to get on a field [and] show a coach what they can do,” Didier said. “I don’t blame ’em one bit.”
The Redskins signed several replacements after the strike’s conclusion. The Super Bowl XXII program lists three replacement players on the Redskins roster: wide receiver Anthony Allen (who was not active on game day), cornerback Dennis Woodberry and tight end Joe Caravello.
The overwhelming majority of the Redskins’ replacement players did not receive a Super Bowl ring for their services, though several other members of that team’s regular corps share Didier’s belief that they deserve them.
“At first I was opposed to them getting rings, but later on, it was like, ‘Those guys contributed; they won three games for us,’ ” linebacker Ravin Caldwell said before the 2017 season. “They should get them just for beating Dallas.”
An underdog of sorts himself, running back Timmy Smith, who set a Super Bowl record (that still stands) with 204 rushing yards, believes the replacement players, who received half a share of the players’ playoff money, earned some sort of honor.
“My take is they were a big part of it,” he said. “They really helped us out. They put us in a position to win the Super Bowl. Yeah, they got the money. I think they should have gotten something [else] — a pendant around the neck, something.”
Wide receiver Ricky Sanders, who caught nine passes for a then-Super Bowl record 193 yards and two touchdowns, was reluctant to comment on the topic but said, “I think they should’ve got something out of it.”
The sentiment is not unanimous.
“I don’t think they should get rings, because they only played three games,” defensive end Dexter Manley said. “I think the opportunity to wear the burgundy and gold uniform, that’s enough. They put us in a good position to go all the way to the Super Bowl, but I can’t say that they should get a ring because they played three football games.”
Doug Williams, the Super Bowl XXII MVP and current Redskins senior vice president of player personnel, takes a more nuanced approach about whether they deserved rings and what should be done now.
“I take my hat off to those guys for coming in and doing something they wanted to do,” Williams said. “They all wanted to play in the National Football League. They got a chance, and what they did was just remarkable — to be able to go undefeated, beat the Giants and beat Dallas with some of their players back. You have to take your hat off.
“As far as rings, I think that’d be up to the people who were purchasing the rings. You’re only allowed to buy so many rings at that time. And that’s the money that you got. I think Mr. Cooke, John [Kent] Cooke, stated the same thing. But I’m just glad that I know that they got a half a share of the playoffs, which they deserved.”
Defensive tackle Darryl Grant pointed out that there will always be controversy over who does and does not receive a ring.
“I’m sure there’s some resentment with the ring issue,” Grant said in September. “The ring issue was not our call. That’s management and ownership’s call about issuing rings. The first year that we won [in the 1982 season], there were some guys that contributed greatly in practice that didn’t get rings. Whether or not they should get the rings is always going to be up to management. In hindsight, it was great what they did. They don’t get invited to some of the events like the homecomings, and I think they feel shunned a little bit by the organization, but that’s not our call.”
Offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, a finalist again for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has a more definitive view.
“That was beneficial. They won three games. They played a role into the playoffs as far as seeding,” Jacoby said.
“I think they should’ve got a ring.”
Scott Allen contributed to this report.
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