Redskins' Friesz tries to step up NFL TRAINING CAMP REPORT

August 05, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

CARLISLE, Pa. -- The $903,200 man knows it's not easy to compete against the $19.25 million man.

John Friesz, who played his first four seasons for the San Diego Chargers, makes his first start for the Washington Redskins on Monday night in their exhibition opener against the Buffalo Bills.

He's starting because rookie Heath Shuler missed 13 days in a training camp holdout before signing an eight-year, $19.25 million deal.

Shuler is the team's quarterback of the future, but Friesz will try to play well enough in the exhibition season to get a chance to start the regular-season opener.

"I think if we're similar in abilities, then he'll get it. I have to be a couple of steps ahead of him," Friesz said.

A sixth-round draft choice out of Idaho in 1990, Friesz won the Chargers' starting job as a second-year player in 1991 and passed for 2,896 yards. But two years ago -- on Aug. 8, 1992 -- Friesz suffered a knee injury when he was hit by Arizona Cardinals linebacker Ken Harvey and was lost for the season.

Harvey's now his teammate in Washington, although Friesz never held the hit against him.

"It wasn't an intentional thing," Friesz said. "He was real nice about it. He called me and wanted to apologize. It was a class act."

Still, the hit gave Stan Humphries a chance to start. He led the team to the playoffs in 1992 and got a $3 million-a-year contract.

Although he started six games when Humphries was hurt last year, Friesz said he knew he didn't have a future in San Diego. He signed a one-year deal with the Redskins -- a $200,000 signing bonus, a $700,000 base salary and a $3,200 workout bonus.

Friesz said he isn't looking ahead, but he's obviously hoping that he'll be in demand on the free-agent market next year if he plays well this year. There's likely to be a shortage of proven quarterbacks on the market because none of this year's potential starters will be free agents next year.

"There are all kinds of scenarios, but I'm not concerned about a year from now," he said.

Meanwhile, his first task is to stay ahead of Shuler on the depth chart.

Coach Norv Turner gave Friesz good reviews yesterday.

"I think he's been excellent," Turner said. "He's very accurate, and he's got a great understanding of playing the position."

Friesz says he won't feel any pressure to play better than Shuler does Monday night when each quarterback is expected to get about 15 plays. Third-stringer Gus Frerotte will finish up.

"I'm just looking forward to it as an opportunity to go out and play well," Friesz said.

Back to Dallas?

In the strangest development yet in the NFL's free-agent signing wars, defensive lineman Tony Casillas returned his $1.2 million signing bonus and was released by the Kansas City Chiefs yesterday.

In a statement released in Kansas City (the Chiefs are in Tokyo), general manager Carl Peterson said, "Tony Casillas has returned his entire signing bonus as he was contractually obligated to do in the event he did not report to training camp."

There was no explanation from the Chiefs or Casillas why he didn't show up after leaving the Dallas Cowboys to sign with the Chiefs as a free agent in the off-season.

Although there were reports in Kansas City that he was suffering from high blood pressure, officials in Kansas City said privately the real problem is that Casillas had second thoughts about leaving the Cowboys and wanted to return to them.

It remains to be seen whether Casillas will re-sign with Dallas.

Casillas has a history of making unusual moves. In 1988, he missed 23 days of the Atlanta Falcons' training camp because he couldn't decide whether he wanted to continue playing football. He was said to be suffering from occupational stress.

In 1990, he was unhappy playing for former coach Jerry Glanville. He was suspended two games for missing a flight to Los Angeles and was traded to Dallas in 1991.

Traveling man?

Cornerback Darryl Henley, who is under indictment on felony drug charges and is facing a trial Jan. 10, has signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Rams.

But neither Henley nor the Rams know if he'll be eligible to play this fall. He's free on $200,000 bond and is prohibited from leaving California.

Unless the restriction is lifted, he wouldn't be able to play in road games and the Rams would release him.

The U.S. Attorney's Office is expected to oppose lifting the restrictions, but Henley's lawyer is arguing he should be allowed to earn a living while he's on bail. The Rams want a ruling by Aug. 28 when they must cut their roster to 53 players. Prosecutors have charged he was "a top player" in a cocaine ring.

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