Not so quiet on Redskins holdout front CFL owner wants to sign Howard, not Rypien

August 11, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

CARLISLE, Pa. -- After a day of bewildering charges and countercharges on the negotiation front, the Washington Redskins seemed stalemated in their efforts to sign their four holdouts.

As the team prepared to leave for London today, this is where things stand:

* Bruce McNall, owner of the Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts, issued a statement saying it was "unlikely" he will sign quarterback Mark Rypien, but said he hopes to sign Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard.

* Redskins general manager Charley Casserly accused Howard's agent, Leigh Steinberg, of going back on his word that he wouldn't talk to Canada if the Redskins drafted him.

* Steinberg denied Casserly's charge and said the team's offer to Howard is only one-third of the percentage increase the other top draft picks are getting.

* Rypien's agent, Ken Staninger, said he talked twice to Toronto general manager Mike McCarthy yesterday. McCarthy contradicted McNall's statement by saying Canada is still an "alternative" for Rypien.

* Coach Joe Gibbs appeared upset about the absence of the holdouts and said he is prepared to go on without them.

None of the Redskins' four holdouts -- Rypien, Howard, offensive lineman Jim Lachey and cornerback Darrell Green -- is likely to make the trip to London tonight.

The club has made the players final offers and has told the three veterans -- Rypien, Lachey and Green -- that it will start reducing the offers Aug. 17 if they don't sign by then.

McNall, who signed Raghib "Rocket" Ismail last year, said: "Howard would be a great asset to the CFL both on and off the field. I still have hope Desmond will join our league in the near future."

Casserly's response to McNall's statement was directed not at the Toronto owner, but at Steinberg, one of the more powerful agents.

He said Steinberg "assured me on more than one occasion" that he wouldn't talk to Canada if the Redskins drafted him.

"I took him at his word, and that's why we drafted him. In all my years of dealing with agents, I have found them to be credible to their word, and to this day, I have no reason to doubt Leigh Steinberg. I think we all know how Leigh feels in regards to sending a player to Canada," he said.

He was referring to a statement Steinberg made last year when Ismail signed with the Argonauts.

"To me, if you're a premier athlete and you want to test yourself, you do it in the NFL. It is the show. No offense to the CFL, but there are more people living within 50 miles of New York than live in Canada," Steinberg said at the time.

In response, Steinberg said he told the Redskins and all other teams that he wouldn't talk to Canada "if negotiations proceed in such a manner as to recognize Desmond's unique qualities."

Instead, he said the Redskins talks have focused not on Howard, but on another player in the draft. He was referring to Sean Gilbert of the Los Angeles Rams, the player drafted in the third slot in front of Howard. He got an average of $1.5 million, and the Redskins don't want to top that.

Even Gibbs said last week that owner Jack Kent Cooke would be "out of his mind" to top the Gilbert figure.

Steinberg, though, said the Gilbert deal was an aberration, a 2 percent increase over the contract the third player drafted last year, Bruce Pickens of the Atlanta Falcons, got.

By contrast, Steinberg said the players signed at the top half of the round are averaging a 32 percent increase over last year's figure.

He said the Redskins are offering an 11 percent hike -- about $1.45 million -- over the $1.3 million given to the fourth player drafted last year, Mike Croel of the Denver Broncos.

Steinberg said if Howard got the 32 percent increase the other players are averaging, he'd get $1.8 million. He said Howard is asking for less, but the Redskins won't budge.

Steinberg said he has been low-key in his talks with Canada and said Howard would still be delighted to sign with the Redskins.

Meanwhile, Staninger, Rypien's agent, expressed surprise at McNall's statement that he was unlikely to sign Rypien because he talked twice with McCarthy, the Toronto general manager, yesterday.

"I'd be surprised if he did issue that statement. If he did, the general manager doesn't know about it," he said.

In a comment before the team issued the statement, McCarthy didn't rule out Rypien, saying Canada was an "alternative."

Staninger also noted that Steinberg and McNall are friends.

"I'll let you do your own speculating," he said.

Staninger, who had been optimistic last week that he could reach a deal with the Redskins, said the Redskins won't move on their offer of $3 million a year for four years.

That would match the base salary that Boomer Esiason of the Cincinnati Bengals gets as the third-highest paid player in the league, and he said Rypien deserves more than Esiason because he has accomplished more. The Redskins argue Rypien has a better team around him.

Gibbs, meanwhile, is frustrated about the holdouts, saying: "I'm kind of tired of talking about it right now. I think we've done all the talking we can do. We've just got to wait. I've been over that about a thousand times. You can beat a dead horse there for the next five or six weeks. I'm working with the guys we've got here. We're going on."

NOTES: DE Eric Williams, who said earlier in the day that he wasn't looking forward to the long flight to London, won't be making the trip. He suffered a serious knee injury in the afternoon practice and will be examined by doctors today to determine the severity of the injury. . . . The Redskins will have a morning practice today.

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