Out of Atlanta and into the shadows Riggs, Settle wait for chance to run

August 13, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

CARLISLE, Pa. -- The Washington Redskins aren't exactly a safe haven for former Atlanta Falcons running backs.

Just ask Gerald Riggs and John Settle.

When the Redskins gave up first- and second-round draft picks to the Falcons for Riggs in 1989, he was supposed to be the trigger man in the one-back offense.

Instead, he was injured most of the past two seasons and lost the running back job to Earnest Byner.

When the Redskins signed Settle off the Falcons' Plan B list earlier this year, he was supposed to give them more depth -- in case Riggs was injured again.

Instead, Settle bruised his ribs early in camp and hasn't played in an exhibition game. He resumed practice yesterday.

"I'm not the type of guy who's superstitious or thinks there's such a thing as a jinx," Settle said. "It's just one of those unfortunate situations that happens in this game. It's a collision sport."

As the Redskins head into the final two exhibition games, Riggs and Settle hope to prove they can help the team.

Byner is entrenched as the heavy-duty running back and two youngsters, Ricky Ervins and Brian Mitchell, have shown they can handle the third-down running-back job.

Riggs and Settle have to wait their turn. Against the New England Patriots Sunday, Riggs gained 10 yards in eight carries.

Coach Joe Gibbs said the problem was that Riggs wasn't working with the first unit and he is talking about correcting that against the Cleveland Browns this week.

Riggs knows that Byner is No. 1. He knows he has to wait for a chance.

"They're quick to forget about you, no doubt about it. That's kind of an empty feeling," he said. "There's no need for anybody to feel sorry for me or anything like that."

Riggs finds it difficult to describe his feelings.

"It's just something you have to deal with. It's hard to explain. As running backs, we feel it inside. It's kind of hard to put it in words. Maybe some people can see it on our faces. It's kind of difficult to explain," he said.

When Riggs arrived in Washington in 1989, he thought it would be the culmination of his career, the chance to carry a playoff team.

"I was thinking this is the situation I've always wanted to be in. Things happened to me that never happened to me in my life. What a time for it to happen," he said.

In his first two seasons, he was hindered by an arch injury. He's healthy now, but he's a backup and he turns 31 in November. He may not have much time left.

"I think my style of play kind of speaks for itself. When I'm going and when I'm rolling, it's something," he said.

To do that, though, he needs a lot of carries.

"For Gerald to look his best, the load is going to have to be on Gerald," said running back coach Don Breaux.

When Riggs reeled off three straight 1,000-yard seasons in Atlanta, the more he carried, the better he was. Although he got 27 yards in six carries against the Pittsburgh Steelers a week ago, that was an aberration. When he handles the ball only a few times, he looks the way he did against the Patriots.

"That's probably how [John] Riggins looked with eight or 10 carries when I look back on it," Breaux said.

Riggs thinks he can still do it if he gets the chance.

"The fire is still there," he said. "The want is still there. My heart is in it. I think that's what is important."

All he can do now is wait and hope he gets a chance to prove it.

"I'm just going to have to be patient and try to work with whatever situation I'm put in," he said.

Meanwhile, Settle is eager to put his career back together after falling out of favor with Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville last season.

He gained 1,024 yards in 1988 and 689 in 1989, but carried just nine times last season. He wasn't in Glanville's plans, but never knew why.

"Some people hold grudges against people and they won't give them a chance and, unfortunately, that's the type of guy he was. He never told me a reason for not playing me," Settle said.

The Redskins like his potential, but they want to see him do it in a game. As a free agent out of Appalachian State, Settle is used to beating the odds.

"Since I started playing football, people told me I couldn't make it and I wasn't good enough. I've always been out to show people I have the ability to play at this level.

"I'm looking forward to it [Friday night's game] right now. I'm planning on playing," Settle said.

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