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1987 Redskins: A team, indivisible
Washington stood united, forged bond for Super Bowl championship
Question of the Day
Players eventually divided picketing duties into shifts scheduled around position group workouts. There was a different dynamic, though, to informal practices back then compared to those the Redskins have held this offseason.
The 1987 team already had gone through training camp and was in season. Their workouts were intended to keep players sharp and in shape so they could immediately step back in when the strike ended. Also, there were several veterans of the 1982 team, such as Jacoby, who knew how to approach the situation.
“We didn’t have as many cars as some of these guys got and places to go and things to do because we couldn’t afford it back then,” said Williams, who earned Super Bowl XXII MVP honors after quarterbacking the Redskins to victory that year. “So we stayed, and we stuck together and worked out and got ready for work to begin.”
George Mason University was the Redskins‘ main workout location. Quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs gathered to run routes. Linemen ran to maintain their conditioning, but there was never contact.
“There’s really nothing we could do without the pads,” Jacoby said. “We got together mostly to hang around. I hate to say it, but we were left having to shoot cold beers and talking things over. But as long as we stayed together, that’s all Joe was worried about.”
Planning for replacements
Even before the players walked out, the wheels were turning in the back rooms of Redskins Park. General manager Bobby Beathard and assistant general manager Charley Casserly had long anticipated a strike and fully expected NFL owners to play games with replacement players. They had lists of names and a few scouting reports ready to go.
The Redskins‘ preparation put them ahead of the rest of the league. While some teams struggled to fill their starting offense and defense, Washington quickly signed about 50 players.
However, there were pitfalls during those wild, unprecedented times. Take the story of cornerback Eric Jeffries. He signed with Washington, while an impostor using his name signed with the New York Giants. The fraud knew everything about Jeffries’ background when quizzed about such information as where he went to college, but he was exposed when the Giants saw he ran with a piano on his back.
“You could get an agreement with a guy over the phone, and he might never show up,” Casserly said. “He may get intercepted by somebody who offered him more money, and you wouldn’t know it until he didn’t come to the airport.”
The use of replacement players burned the union Redskins. When the bus transporting the replacement team from a Dulles hotel to Redskins Park rolled past the picket line for its first day of practice, veteran defensive lineman Darryl Grant punched a window and cracked two panes.
“These people would steal the shoes off a dead man,” Grant told The Washington Times that day.
Replacements stepped up
Attendance at replacement-player games plummeted around the league, but the “ScabSkins,” as they were called by some, were a hit. That Rubbert-to-Allen combo? Allen’s 255 receiving yards against St. Louis still stand as the franchise’s single-game record.
By the time the non-union Redskins pummeled the Giants’ replacements the following week, the players union obviously was splintering. Big-name veterans were crossing the picket line in just about every NFL city. Joe Montana, Mark Gastineau, Howie Long — even Jim Zorn — were among them.
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About the Author
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