Redskins joke at Shuler's expense NFL TRAINING CAMP REPORT

August 04, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

CARLISLE, Pa. -- Former quarterback turned TV personality Sonny Jurgensen, who made a grand total of $988,000 during an 18-year Hall of Fame career, asked the first question of the Washington Redskins' $19 million man yesterday.

"What are you going to do now? Are you going to go to Disneyland or are you going to buy it?" Jurgensen asked rookie quarterback Heath Shuler after his first practice in a Redskins uniform.

"I think I'll stay here in Carlisle for a couple of more weeks," Shuler said with a smile.

Jurgensen's question was typical of the banter Shuler can expect to get from his teammates now that he's signed the richest rookie contract in NFL history -- an eight-year, $19.25 million deal.

When he walked into the locker room for the first time, he found a sign reading "Heath Shuler's private dressing room" on a closet door.

"Everybody's cool about it," Shuler said. "Of course, there are a lot of jokes going around."

Now it's up to Shuler to prove he can handle the pressure of one of the toughest jobs in pro football.

Since Jurgensen retired, the Redskins have had five starting quarterbacks -- Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann, Jay Schroeder, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien. All except Schroeder took Redskins teams to the Super Bowl and Shuler will be expected to deliver in the not too distant future.

Washington fans, who've been spoiled by success, booed Rypien two years ago when he held out coming off a Super Bowl MVP showing.

Shuler, though, doesn't seem worried about anything -- including the fans.

"That's OK," he said. "They don't know what's involved. They have to live with themselves. They don't know me and I don't know them. If they know me as a person, they wouldn't do that."

Shuler seemed self-confident. He said he'll try to beat out John Friesz for the starting job in the regular-season opener and he said he doesn't need any financial advice from owner Jack Kent Cooke now that he's joined him in the millionaire ranks.

"I don't want to be boastful about it, but I have that [finances] under control. I have the right people [to advise him]," he said.

Shuler said he had no regrets about the holdout even though it cost him two weeks of practice time and didn't accomplish much because the offer he basically took had been on the table for the past 10 days.

He wanted to top Marshall Faulk's $5.1-million signing bonus, but the Redskins wouldn't go above the $5-million bonus Dan Wilkinson got and Shuler didn't want to miss any more camp time.

"I'm glad I'm here now," he said. "That's the most important thing."

Even though he threw his first pass right at a defensive back, Shuler liked his first workout.

"It was good," he said as he noted he hadn't been in shoulder pads since Jan. 1.

Both coach Norv Turner and quarterback coach Cam Cameron gave him positive reviews.

"I was impressed with him," Turner said. "He had a good feel for things."

Cameron said he thinks Shuler can handle the burden of being in the spotlight. "I'd be shocked if all this affects this kid," he said.

The signing derby

Once Shuler signed, it figured that the second quarterback in the draft, Trent Dilfer, wouldn't be far behind. Dilfer, the sixth pick, signed an eight-year $16.5-million package with Tampa Bay yesterday.

It's similar to the Shuler deal. Dilfer can void it after three years and the Buccaneers can then buy back two years. Dilfer, who wanted an average of $2.5 million a year for the first three years, settled for $2.47 million a year.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Browns yesterday signed both of their first-round choices, cornerback Antonio Langham and wide receiver Derrick Alexander.

Those signings left only one unsigned player from the first round -- linebacker Jamir Miller, who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals as the 10th player picked.

On the move

Mo Elewonibi, who was released by the Redskins on Monday so they could have enough money to sign Shuler, was signed by the Buffalo Bills yesterday. Elewonibi, who was due to make $500,000 with the Redskins, got a $100,000 signing bonus and a $250,000 base salary.

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