SI Vault
 
Big Doings In D.C.
E.M. Swift
September 01, 1986
Joe Theismann and John Riggins have departed, but the Jay Schroeder-led Redskins appear to be getting along just fine without them
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
September 01, 1986

Big Doings In D.c.

Joe Theismann and John Riggins have departed, but the Jay Schroeder-led Redskins appear to be getting along just fine without them

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

The trick, of course, will be to get Bryant the football while still taking advantage of the Redskins' bread and butter—Rogers controlling the ball behind those ripsnorting, yard-churning Hogs. In the final three games of last season Rogers ran wild—150 yards against Philadelphia, 95 against Cincinnati, 206 against St. Louis—to finish with more than 1,000 yards for the third time in his five-year career. "We're racking our brains about how to best use Kelvin's talent," says Gibbs, who's reluctant to abandon the one-back offense that has been so successful for him in Washington. "He has great hands, so do we use him at outside receiver? Do we put Kelvin and George together in a two-back offense? Do we save him for second-and-long and third-down situations? The one thing about Kelvin that I have seen so far is that he's a real team guy and will do anything we ask of him, including block."

In Redskins parlance "a real team guy" is about the highest praise a player can get. Joe T. was not a real team guy—he was too self-centered. Riggo, however, was. When it came time for Bryant to select his Washington jersey, he naturally had his eye on 44, his number in the USFL and at North Carolina. Trouble was, 44 had been Riggins's number. After a couple of the Hogs got wind of the situation, they made noise about a one-day strike if Riggo's number was given out. Gibbs told Bryant how the players felt about Riggins's number, but he also made it clear to him that if he wanted old lucky 44, it was his for the taking. No problem, said Bryant, and he took 24 instead. "I'll wear double-zero," says Bryant. "I don't care."

His decision made him a lot of points with his teammates. And if there were any doubts about what he could do against NFL competition, Bryant dispelled them against the Bucs. The second time he touched the ball, he turned a harmless-looking flare pass into a 25-yard gain, making two cuts that left Tampa Bay defenders grasping at ghosts. Then, on a delay in the fourth quarter, Bryant took a handoff over right tackle and made a one-legged, now-you-see-him-now-you-don't cut back to the left that was reminiscent—dare we say it?—of vintage Gale Sayers, after which he galloped untouched into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. It was the kind of run that left the Redskins on the sideline grinning. Not high-fiving or raising their fists, just grinning. The guy was something to see.

However, Bryant also fumbled twice, which isn't very good for someone who touched the ball just seven times all night. All told, he gained 27 yards on three carries and caught four passes for 35 yards. "He's an explosion back every time he touches the ball," a guardedly pleased Gibbs said after the game, which Washington won 21-13. "But you can't lay the ball down on the ground like that and win games."

Bryant was sheepish about the fumbles, and he would not let well-intentioned reporters supply him with the excuse that he hadn't been in a full contact game in more than a year. "I have got to protect the football," he said. "I'll promise you one thing, I'm not going to fumble next week."

That was one thing about Riggo: He didn't fumble. We shall see about Bryant. He should be very, very interesting to watch. As Schroeder says, "No one really knows what this club is all about. We're anxious to find out."

1 2