HERNDON, Va. -- The Washington Redskins' coaches like everything about veteran running back James Wilder -- the football player and the man. But they didn't like the idea of going short-handed against the San Francisco 49ers.
So Wilder is gone, to Detroit for defensive end Eric Williams, a proven seven-year veteran.
The Redskins eased past the Cardinals Sunday with only six defensive linemen, which is living dangerously against any opposition. Fred Stokes was able to play and had a sack, but his harnessed left shoulder "popped out a couple of times" and his usefulness is questionable.
But the 49ers are something else, and the Redskins meet them on their home grounds Sunday afternoon. The Skins needed a large lineman right now and the Lions made them pay. Detroit gets Wilder and a draft choice of undisclosed denomination.
Wilder, who distinguished himself as a runner and receiver in nine seasons with Tampa Bay (gaining 2,844 yards in 1984-85 for Buccaneers teams that won only eight of 32 games), was signed by the Redskins as a Plan-B free agent in March. At age 32 Wilder was third-string, at best, in the Skins' one-back offense.
But he had applied his considerable talents to multiple special-team assignments with a professionalism and elan that made him a role model to younger Redskins players, and some not so young. "Totally classy guy," special teams coach Wayne Sevier called Wilder. "The special teams always need a guy to be the leader, and I think James may be it this year."
Late last night Wilder was the player in the trade to be named later -- when the Redskins' management could find him. On the players' day off, Wilder was in the process of moving his wife, a 13-year-old and a 6-year-old daughter from Tampa. Now they will have to move again.
As will Williams, who at 286 pounds is reputed to be most effective against running plays, but had six sacks each of the past two seasons.
A third-round draft choice as a defensive lineman from Washington State in 1984, Williams played nose tackle for the Lions in 1986, starting every game. He became a defensive end again after Detroit drafted Jerry Ball from SMU in 1987. Ball was voted to the Pro Bowl by his peers last season. Williams played all but one of Detroit's games in the past four years.