Conklin injures knee doing Redskins roster shuffle Washington keeps Riggs despite large salary

August 28, 1991|By Vito Stellino

When it comes to roster maneuvering, the Washington Redskins may be in a league of their own.

"We're no different than 28 other teams," coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday, after the Redskins went through their annual roster shuffle. "This is what's happening in 28 other places."

But the other teams -- make that 27 other teams -- don't seem to have owners like Jack Kent Cooke, who doesn't complain about paying the extra salaries of the players Gibbs collects.

These were yesterday's maneuvers:

* The Redskins re-signed five of their players, including running back Gerald Riggs (whose base salary is $825,000) and claimed former Redskin Terry Orr off waivers from the San Diego Chargers when they learned they had lost Ken Whisenhunt on waivers to the New York Jets.

* They put six players on injured reserve, including quarterback Cary Conklin, who was last seen Saturday night playing the final quarter of the preseason game against the New York Jets with no sign of injury. The Redskins announced he had a knee injury.

* They said that while Stan Humphries technically will be the backup quarterback, Jeff Rutledge will dress as the designated No. 2 quarterback so he can hold for kicks. Humphries will be the 46th player to dress and can play only if Mark Rypien and Rutledge are injured. But Rutledge could come down with an "injury" if they wanted to play Humphries.

All this maneuvering left the Redskins with 47 players on the active roster and six on the injured reserve who can practice after the first four weeks of the season. This is normal for the Redskins, who put five players on the IR list after the final cut last year.

Besides Riggs, they players they re-signed were guard Mark Adickes, wide receivers Stephen Hobbs and Joe Johnson and defensive back Sidney Johnson.

Joining Conklin on IR were tight end Don Warren (broken fibula), cornerback A.J. Johnson (dislocated wrist), offensive lineman Ray Brown (elbow) and Mo Elewonibi (knee) and running back John Settle (ribs). It's the second straight year Brown and Elewonibi have begun the season on IR.

Warren and Johnson are injured. The other four have what might be called "roster injuries," ones that qualify them for the four-week IR list.

Conklin's injury will raise the most eyebrows because the Redskins were not as subtle as they had been in the past with quarterback injuries.

For example, after Rypien was flipped backward in the fourth quarter of the final preseason game of 1987, they announced he had a back injury and placed him on IR.

In Humphries' rookie year in 1988, they announced he was going on the IR list with a blood disorder. He has one, but it doesn't interfere with his playing football. It became a running joke during the season to ask Humphries how he was recovering from the ailment.

Conklin was not on a post-game injury list after the Jets game, but, technically, his placement on IR was not against league rules. Conklin can qualify for the list because he had knee surgery last year, which means his knee isn't normal.

The league goes through the motions of enforcing the IR list by having some of the players examined by neutral physicians. But almost all football players have some type of injuries.

Conklin's agent, Leigh Steinberg, said: "No football player I know would pass an objective physical. I don't think there's any question that Cary's knee isn't up to normal standards."

But there also is no question that if the Redskins wanted Conklin to play, he could.

Gibbs left no doubt that he's high on Conklin. "I think Cary has a very bright future," he said.

But the club wanted to keep all four quarterbacks because it hasn't been able to deal Humphries yet. Management figures that when other teams lose quarterbacks, Humphries' value will rise.

When asked when exactly Conklin suffered his knee injury against the Jets, Gibbs seemed uncomfortable and did not answer the question. He never said Conklin had a knee injury.

He suggested talking to the medical staff and then simply read off the players and the body part that was supposed to be injured.

Gibbs later said: "I don't like this. It's a bad deal. Everybody is fighting like mad to get their team as strong and as healthy as possible to get ready to play the opening game."

The real question is what happens if Rypien is injured and Rutledge goes in and is ineffective. He can be lifted only if he's injured.

Don't be surprised if he comes limping off.

NOTES: The 5 players named to the practice squad were CB Jimmy Spencer, LB Ted Rogers, OL Thomas Rayam, WR Cary Harry and TE James Jenkins. . . . CB Darrell Green, who won the DHL/NFL's fastest man contest for the fourth time, had his name inscribed on a DHL Worldwide Express Boeing 727 at National Airport yesterday. The plane will be in the fleet's regular service.

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