Breaking up is hard to stop NFL TRAINING CAMP REPORT

August 23, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- They're still breaking up that old Joe Gibbs gang in Washington.

Just 31 months after they routed the Buffalo Bills, 37-24, in Super Bowl XXVI, the Redskins were left with just seven starters from that team when tight end Ron Middleton was released yesterday.

Middleton was the only Super Bowl veteran among the six players the Redskins waived, leaving them with 68 players on their roster. They must release eight more today to meet the mandatory 60-player limit.

Of the 14 starters who departed earlier from their Super Bowl team, five retired (Joe Jacoby, Don Warren, Jeff Bostic, Eric Williams and Danny Copeland), six signed with other teams as free agents (Fred Stokes, Martin Mayhew, Gary Clark, Art Monk, Earnest Byner and Mark Rypien), one was traded (Wilber Marshall) and two were released and haven't been signed by other teams (Brad Edwards and Charles Mann).

Middleton was the victim of a nagging hamstring injury and the switch from Gibbs' two tight-end offense to new coach Norv Turner's two-back offense that features one tight end. It didn't help that his $500,000 salary is high for a backup.

"I'm very disappointed," Middleton said. "I was just dealt a bad hand. I couldn't compete."

Turner said: "It was a very, very difficult decision."

The Redskins now will go with Ethan Horton, James Jenkins and rookie Kurt Haws at tight end.

It was the fourth time Middleton, who also has played in Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Cleveland, has been waived by the Redskins.

At the end of the 1989 season, when Cleveland didn't protect him on the Plan B list, Gibbs decided he had made a mistake cutting him the first three times. He offered Middleton a contract and he wound up playing four years for the team and getting a Super Bowl ring.

"I can't be bitter," Middleton said. "It's just the way things happen."

Middleton, 29, said he still hopes to get picked up by another team.

"I still think I've got some football left in me," he said.

Blackout likely

The Redskins are expected to announce today that Friday's final exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at RFK Stadium won't be televised in Washington because it's not sold out.

Turner didn't make it any easier to sell tickets when he said the starters are likely to only go a half with quarterbacks John Friesz and Heath Shuler figuring to play only one quarter each. Turner doesn't like to risk injury to his starters in the final exhibition game.

Roster moves

Wide receiver Vance Johnson of the San Diego Chargers probably was the biggest name waived yesterday as NFL teams started to reducetheir final rosters. He was one of 19 players -- including former Towson State running back Tony Vinson -- waived by the Chargers as they trimmed to today's 60-player limit a day ahead of time.

Johnson, who signed a $2.4 million contract March 24, strained his right hamstring in training camp and caught only two passes in the exhibition season.

One of the former "Three Amigos" in Denver, he is second on the Broncos' all-time receiving list with 403 catches. He also had some well-publicized off-the-field problems and is writing a book detailing his past problems with drugs and wife abuse that he says he's overcome.

Former Maryland nose tackle Darren Drozdov, who has a knee injury that will sideline him 10 weeks, has been offered an injury settlement by the Denver Broncos. If he accepts it, he can return once the knee is healed. If he turns it down and goes on the injured-reserve list, he's out for the year.

Cornerback Perry Williams, a member of the New York Giants' two Super Bowl teams, announced his retirement.

Sanders still shopping

Free-agent cornerback Deion Sanders stopped in Kansas City, Mo., last night to watch the Chiefs-Chicago Bears game, but there's no indication the two-sport standout is close to signing with any team.

Sanders has visited the San Francisco 49ers and Miami Dolphins. After watching the Chiefs, he'll go to Atlanta, where he played his first five NFL seasons. Sanders also might visit New Orleans and also has mentioned Philadelphia.

Dallas owner Jerry Jones said last night the Cowboys "have ruled out" pursuing Sanders.

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