Geron Christian Jersey

The Redskins fared well with offensive line injuries on Sunday, but the unit keeps getting thinner.

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It’s never easy to respond to the loss of two All-Pro offensive linemen. The Washington Redskins know this well; their 2017 season was derailed largely due to offensive line injuries, and midway through the 2018 season, they’re without three of their starters, and another, Morgan Moses, is playing hurt.

The offensive line, in many ways, is the difference between a successful offense and an unsuccessful one. That’s why it’s painful to imagine what the Redskins offense would be like if their replacement players hadn’t stepped up on Sunday against the Buccaneers. Washington’s new acquisitions performed admirably, with Jonathan Cooper leading the way at left guard. They weren’t dominant, but they did enough to help the offense function, and thus, they should be commended.
That said, sifting endlessly through reserve offensive linemen is never a sustainable way to go through an NFL season, and today, the Redskins only grew closer to such a fate. Another week, another loss for the Redskins, who announced, via Jay Gruden, that rookie offensive tackle Geron Christian tore his MCL in Sunday’s win, effectively ending his 2018 campaign.
That said, sifting endlessly through reserve offensive linemen is never a sustainable way to go through an NFL season, and today, the Redskins only grew closer to such a fate. Another week, another loss for the Redskins, who announced, via Jay Gruden, that rookie offensive tackle Geron Christian tore his MCL in Sunday’s win, effectively ending his 2018 campaign.
Either way, as both the rookie’s performance, and that of Nsekhe, has shown, the third-round pick still has a ways to go before succeeding Nsekhe as the team’s swing tackle. This injury, with any luck, will not stunt his development.

Vernon Davis Jersey

Montae Nicholson and Vernon Davis were among those absent at Monday’s open Redskins OTAs session, and both absences were surprising considering each player’s somewhat unsteady spot on the roster.

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Nicholson’s second year with the Redskins was a struggle both on and off the field, while Davis is often mentioned as someone who might be in line for a contract restructuring or even a release.

However, thanks to a video that the Redskins posted on Instagram, it’s now clear that the safety and the tight end have since returned to Ashburn to work with their fellow teammates:


It’s an especially encouraging development for Nicholson, who should be doing whatever he can to get back in the good graces of the coaching staff. Whatever the reason for his absence was on Monday, it’s a good sign to see that he didn’t stay away too long.

Art Monk Jersey

The Washington Redskins’ two biggest additions this offseason led to celebrations, high-fives and hope. These additions also led to a big debate about the numbers they would wear for a simple reason: Both wore jersey numbers that have been taken out of circulation by the organization.

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The latest flap was resolved thanks to quarterback Joe Theismann, who granted first-round pick Dwayne Haskins permission to wear the No. 7 he made famous during the early 1980s. After all, Theismann was the Redskins’ first Super Bowl-winning quarterback. He’s the all-time winningest quarterback in Washington, too. In fact, he’s the only Redskin to ever wear the number.

And Wednesday, he told 106.7 The Fan that he gave permission for Haskins to wear the No. 7. Yes, the organization left the decision to Theismann.
Earlier this offseason, the talk was about safety Landon Collins and the No. 21. It’s what Collins wore with the New York Giants — and he did so to honor someone who once played for the Redskins: Sean Taylor. But Collins won’t be wearing the No. 21 this season; instead, he’ll wear No. 20, and that’s probably a good thing. Taylor still evokes strong emotions even 11-plus years after his death.

Theismann’s number was taken out of commission by former Redskins equipment manager Jay Brunetti, now with the San Francisco 49ers. Brunetti spent 26 years with the Redskins and worked for the team during the Super Bowl runs before leaving after the 2000 season.

There are two schools of thought: The young guys should prove themselves first rather than worrying about any brand; earn your standing. The flip side: At what point does a player’s “right” to a number end? How many do you keep out of circulation and why?

Theismann was an excellent player and continues to be a good ambassador. He was tough and respected and remains the only Redskins quarterback to play in two Super Bowls. But he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. Yet one of his blockers did make the Hall of Fame — Russ Grimm. And his number, 68, has subsequently been worn by seven players. Another ex-Hog, Joe Jacoby, has been a Hall of Fame finalist. Eight others have worn his No. 66.
Brian Mitchell, considered one of the best return men in history, won a Super Bowl and played 10 seasons with Washington. His No. 30 has been worn by eight others. Maybe the Redskins could put a patch somewhere on the jersey and include the names of the famous players who wore it in the past. Create a legacy.

Sonny Jurgensen is the only Redskin to wear the No. 9 and no one has worn No. 44 since John Riggins retired. Darrell Green’s No. 28 and Art Monk’s No. 81 also remain unused. All four are in the Hall of Fame.

The only retired Redskins number belongs to Sammy Baugh (33). Hall of Famer Charley Taylor’s 42 hasn’t been worn since he stopped playing in 1977. But, shockingly, Bobby Mitchell’s 49 was worn by one other player — a tight end named Leonard Stephens who lasted one season with Washington. If a number worn by Mitchell, the first African-American in franchise history and a Hall of Famer, can be worn, then it’s hard to keep others out of circulation.

The 1970s and ’80s were by far the Redskins’ best decades. The emotional tug to that successful era remains strong. It sustains a generation.

There have been excellent players in the past 20 years — Clinton Portis is No. 2 on the team’s all-time rushing list behind Riggins. The player after Portis? Larry Brown, whose No. 43 hasn’t been worn since he stopped playing in 1976. Meanwhile, Portis’ No. 26 was worn the next season. Adrian Peterson wears it now, mainly because the number he made famous in Minnesota — 28 — wasn’t an option.

Too often the past couple decades have been spent recalling the glory days. But here’s what the Redskins need: players who make the numbers they’re wearing now sacred. But for those numbers to resonate, they need to win. That’s what Haskins must do. In the end, it’s the name they’ll remember — not the number.

Dexter Manley Jersey

“Redskins Past To Present” is a new series for The Redskins Blog during the offseason that catches up with Redskins alumni – some famous, some forgotten – that have spent time, long and short, in the Redskins organization.

With their time removed from the game, we hope to highlight the many former players and coaches that once wore the burgundy and gold — we’ll talk about their memories, their experiences and what they’re up to today, in no particular order, to give a snapshot of their lives as ex-football players.

Dexter Manley, a Pro Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Redskins, spent nine seasons in Washington, making an indelible mark on the franchise. He eventually joined the team’s Redskins Ring of Fame and holds the franchise mark for most sacks (91). He has overcome many battles in his life – chronicled most recently in an NFL Films documentary – and currently works in property management for CE Construction, making his home in the Washington, D.C. metro area.

The Redskins Blog: The last time I spoke with you was at the premiere of your “A Football Life” documentary. What was the reaction from people who had seen the documentary?
Dexter Manley: It was really overwhelming. A lot of people supported me. A lot of people cannot necessarily identify with the struggle but, at some point in their life some family member or whatever, they can identify with a lot of my misfortunes. They’re supportive and I appreciate that. I’m grateful for the appreciation, seeing the documentary and not being so critical. And so I’m just real thankful for the National Football League for all of my journeys, good and bad.

Was there a certain player or teammate who reached out that was special to you?

Yes. Earl Campbell called me. I had a nice long talk with Earl Campbell. And I talked with John Riggins and that’s about it. Talked a little bit with Darryl Grant. They were very supportive, especially Earl Campbell and John Riggins. I though they showed a lot of support. But a lot of people could identify because in all of our lives we have some changes. Some more public, some not so public. But I think they could identify with my story and what I’ve gone through and the fact that I’ve overcome all of them.

You’re going to be inducted into the D.C. Sports Hall of Fame this summer. How did you feel upon that announcement?

I’m appreciative. I know that I’ve gone through the rain, the wind and the storm and a lot of people don’t necessarily want to acknowledge you when you have some dark days. But in my core, I’m a great guy. People recognized that, so I’m appreciative of the D.C. Sports committee for acknowledging me and voting me in. I think they waited a little too long [laughing].

When you look back on your time winning two Super Bowls, is there a story you haven’t told anybody about winning them?

Well, we beat the Miami Dolphins [in 1983], and we were staying in Costa Mesa, [Calif.] but we left and went out to Pasadena and stayed at a hotel. And after that game, a lot of national media wanted to get me to come on some good morning shows and things of that nature. Bryant Gumbel wanted me on his show. But 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, it was Joe Jacoby and me, [the] Limo took us to Burbank. And then we went on top of a building and a helicopter – we were flying in the city of Los Angeles to be on “The Today Show.” I thought that was the neatest thing. I had never flown in a helicopter before, that was my first time flying in a helicopter over Los Angeles, myself and Joe Jacoby.

Were you good friends with Joe?

No, we were teammates and that was it. They picked Jake and they picked myself.

You played in Canada at the end of your career. What was that experience like at a time before the sport had really begun to grow?

It’s just not the same, but I have a lot of respect for their tenacity. They really wanted to have a bigger better sport than the National Football League, but they just didn’t have the personnel, didn’t have the athletes. It was a different game. I appreciate the opportunity that the Canadians gave me and particularly the owner of the Rough Riders. It had a great fan base in Ottawa, which I liked living in Ottawa. It was a very nice town. I made some good friends there and I had a good time…I started writing a column every Thursday in the paper [The Sun]. Another guy sort of helped me write the column.

I would be talking about the football team, Ottawa, and different stuff, the district of Ottawa, go around town, and things that I saw.

What’s a typical day for Dexter Manley like?

I’m in business development. I work out 5-6 days a week. Monday through Friday, I usually go to bed about 7:30, sometimes 8 o’clock. I get up about 2:30 a.m. and I watch the world news. I listen to gospel music. I leave my house at about 4:15, wait for my wife to come down. I take off in my car at 4:30. Head to the gym downtown and I work out about an hour and 15 minutes. That’s pretty much it. Come back and get ready to go to work.

So do you watch any sports going to bed so early?

My wife [Lydia] stays up mostly. She’ll watch all of Monday Night Football because I have to get up and go work out. That’s my routine. I don’t let that interfere me with anything. She’s my eyes and ears. She tells me what’s going on…Lydia’s a big football sports fanatic. She really should have her own show. She’s really insightful on sports, particularly football. She knows what offensive guard does, she knows what the cornerback does. She’s been around football her whole life, her father was a football player.
What does Dexter Manley do for fun when he has a free day?

I go to the movies, I spend a lot of time with my wife. I talk to my grandkids a lot. And more importantly, I just have fun and I stay prayed up.

What movie have you seen recently that you like?

Last time I went to the movies I fell asleep after I ate the popcorn, [but] I saw “Concussion.” It was a good movie. Lydia really liked it. I think people should pay attention to it. The NFL should start settling some cases because they’re sitting on their hands and not settling cases and that’s a little disturbing to me. I’ve had two brain surgeries…some days I have good days, some days I have bad days. But it’s all about God’s grace that I’m still standing.

Charles Mann Jersey

The man who founded the “Tom Brown Rookie League” youth sports programs on Delmarva will join a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a national high school and college basketball player of the year and others into the Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame next month.

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Tom Brown is among the 11 honorees that will be inducted in a special ceremony on Sunday, June 23 at Nationals Park prior to the 1:35 p.m. game between the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves.
The 2019 DC Sports Hall of Fame class also includes Washington Post horse racing columnist Andrew Beyer, Maryland men’s soccer coach Sasho Cirovski, Olympic swimming champion Tom Dolan, DeMatha High School and Duke University basketball star Danny Ferry, the late Redskins coach Ray Flaherty, Redskins Pro Bowl defensive end Charles Mann, longtime DC United executive Kevin Payne, Maryland women’s lacrosse coach Cathy Reese and the late tennis instructor and player Allie Ritzenberg.
The 2017-18 Washington Capitals, last year’s National Hockey League Stanley Cup champions, have been named the DC Sports Hall of Fame’s first-ever Team of Distinction.
“This year’s 10 individual inductees are extraordinary examples of excellence from the Nation’s Capital and represent an impressive range of eight different sports and accomplishments on the high school, college, and professional levels,” said DC Sports Hall of Fame selection committee chairman Bobby Goldwater. “In addition to inducting them, the DC Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to introduce a new designation for recognition, Team of Distinction, and to recognize the 2018 Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals as the first to be honored. We look forward to adding these deserving names to the DC Sports Hall of Fame honor roll at the induction ceremony at Nationals Park on June 23. Our committee is deeply appreciative for the ongoing support of Mark Lerner and the Washington Nationals.”
Individual nominees for inclusion must have gained prominence in the Washington area through their achievements in sports as an athlete, coach, owner, executive, member of the media, or contributor. A professional, collegiate, or high school team that has made a significant and positive impact in the Greater Washington community through outstanding achievement will be eligible to be recognized as a Team of Distinction.

Brown was a three-sport star (football, basketball, baseball) at Montgomery Blair School. The Silver Spring native played both baseball and football at the University of Maryland and was a professional athlete in two sports, first with Major League Baseball’s Washington Senators in 1963, followed by a six-year National Football League career with the Green Bay Packers, winning three NFL titles including two Super Bowls, and the Washington Redskins.

Years later, Brown created a little league in Salisbury for football, baseball and basketball called Tom Brown’s Rookie League.

In 30 years, the Tom Brown Rookie League enrolled over 3,500 players from Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. In addition, the league has provided hundreds of self-funded scholarships to underserved children.

Brown retired from actively running the league in 2015.

Sam Huff Jersey

Sam Huff, the Texas Rangers catcher who has been destroying Sally League pitching this season, is being promoted from low-A Hickory to high-A Down East, it has been announced. He is replacing Melvin Novoa, who has been catching for Down East, and who is moving back to Hickory.

Huff, 21, was a subject of our minor league post last night, which noted that he had homered for the 15th time and had boosted his OPS to 1164. He was at Hickory last season, and has a lot of swing and miss in his game (his K rate this year is 32.5%, against a 5.3% walk rate), which means that the enthusiasm for his start has to be tempered to a certain degree, but he’s now going to get the chance to show he can do damage against more advanced pitchers in the Carolina League.

Daniel Victor did a write-up on Huff from his observations of him you can check out here.

In addition, righthanded reliever Peter Fairbanks is being promoted to AA Frisco from Down East. Fairbanks, 25, was a 9th round pick out of the University of Missouri in 2015, and missed most of 2017 and all of 2018 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery. He’s been throwing in the upper-90s this year out of the pen for Down East, with 15 Ks and 4 walks in 12.1 innings, and given his age and stuff, it makes sense for the Rangers to promote him relatively aggressively.

UPDATE — Jake Lemoine has been promoted to AAA Nashville from AA Frisco. The righthander, a 4th round pick of the Rangers in 2015, had an 0.52 ERA in 17 IP in Frisco, with 16 Ks and 6 walks. The 25 year old didn’t pitch as a pro until 2017, but has had success working out of the bullpen, and will now get a shot at the PCL.

Russ Grimm Jersey

The creek kept them occupied. The boys would carry their fishing poles across the grass as instructed, past the yellow uprights and beyond the back corner of the field. They would cast their lines, hoping to get a nibble, while their father, sturdy and strong, would watch when he could. But work invariably would require his attention.

“He had us fishing behind the park,” Chad Grimm recalled of those excursions with his younger brother Cody. “And then he was like, ‘Okay, I’ve got to go to practice. You guys fish for a little bit and come walk through the practice field when you’re done.’ ”

His dad, Hall of Famer and Washington Redskins legend Russ Grimm, remembers those days, too.

“Sometimes you’d have to go to practice and hope they stay out of trouble,” Russ said by phone a few weeks later with a deep, throaty chuckle. “That is until practice was over and they’re covered in mud and everything else. But boys will be boys.”
Decades later, Chad, the oldest of the four Grimm children at age 32, finds himself not far from that very creek, patrolling that same practice field. He roams the same hallways his father once did, back when Russ was a fixture in Ashburn as the tight ends and offensive line coach, watching film in an office three doors down from the one that belonged to his dad.

“Yeah, there’s a lot of history here,” Chad said during a recent interview, donning a Redskins pullover, shorts and a No. 2 pencil behind his right ear.

His first season in his new role as Washington’s outside linebackers coach — a promotion from his previous stint as the team’s defensive quality control coach in 2015 and 2016 — is nearing a close. But during a half-hour break from his game-week preparation, Chad paused to reflect on the path that led him back to his home state of Virginia, his dream of becoming an NFL head coach and the external pressure of living up to his famous last name.

[During an NFL season of protests and criticism, Chris Long asked, ‘Why not help?’]

Russ is the offensive line coach for the Tennessee Titans, but his legacy will forever loom large over the Redskins franchise. As an original member of the “Hogs” — Washington’s famed offensive lines of the 1980s and early 1990s — Russ was an unstoppable force during the team’s run to three Super Bowl titles. He helped pave the way for Redskins greatness more than 30 years ago.

Chad’s contributions to the Redskins will never come on the gridiron like his famous father’s. Nevertheless, he relishes the opportunity to share another link with his old man.

Life, as he says, has come “full circle.”

“A lot of people say all the time, ‘Oh, I’m so blessed.’ But honestly, it is the exact feeling I have every day. And I’m thankful,” said Chad, who was raised 15 minutes from Redskins Park in Fairfax County and graduated from Oakton High . “It just seemed like all of the stars kind of aligned.”
Returning to his roots

Chad traces his father’s image on the wall, guiding his fingertips over the flat surface of Russ’s hard expression.

The snapshot of Russ’s Hall of Fame bust from his 2010 Canton induction is just one of many photos used in a mural that spans a wall outside of the Redskins’ locker room. Down that same hallway, to the right, a collage of Redskins greats adorns the double-doors leading to the weight room. At the top, the acronym “HTTR” (“Hail to the Redskins”) is emblazoned in yellow block letters. On the bottom right, Russ’s hulking frame and the “8” of his No. 68 jersey are visible behind fellow Hall of Famer Ken Houston.

“I’m just proud,” Chad said, beaming. “I obviously grew up a huge Redskins fan. So it’s like a constant reminder that I get to work for the team I grew up loving when he was playing. . . . It’s pretty sweet.

“Every time I go to dinner or I go into the locker room, it’s a little reminder of how our family and the Redskins family are linked.”
Chad, who was 7 when his father retired from the NFL, still remembers wearing Russ’s jersey to Redskins home games and at home while the family watched games on “one of those huge box TVs.”

He added, “We’d say, ‘Oh, there’s Dad!’ and we’d point to him.”

Russ was an immense figure during his playing days — 6-foot-3, 273 pounds — and the last name Grimm came with an unspoken responsibility.

“Obviously, you had the pressures of not wanting to be a” screw-up. Chad said. “My dad, he was always gone so much with coaching, so when he was around, it was kind of like you wanted to impress him. You were seeking his approval.”
But by the time he walked on at Virginia Tech as a special-teamer and occasional linebacker, Chad had confronted the obvious truth about his athletic shortcomings: He was too undersized to make an NFL roster, let alone carve out a Hall of Fame career like his dad.

“I can remember meeting people and them being like, ‘Wait, you’re Russ Grimm’s son? What the hell happened? I thought you’d be bigger,'” said the 5-10 Chad, who weighed 184 pounds in college. “When that would come up, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, well, maybe I got more of my mom’s genes.’ ”

(Karen Grimm, he guessed, is 5-4.)

“Obviously, he was such a great football player that people just assumed I was supposed to be some great football player, too.”

But Russ tried to ensure that his three boys never felt pressured to be him.
“Obviously, they didn’t have my size, so that was a plus because I didn’t have to worry about them playing offensive line,” said Russ, who became the Titans’ line coach in January 2016 after coaching stops in Washington, Pittsburgh and Arizona. “You kind of want them to look up to you — to a certain point. I always felt that you want them to be their own person. Not always try to mimic what Dad does.”

Unlike Cody — a former Oakton standout and Virginia Tech star who was drafted in the seventh round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2010 — Chad’s entree into the NFL came through coaching.

He spent four seasons as an offensive quality control coach for the Arizona Cardinals — at the time, Russ was their offensive line coach — before becoming a defensive quality control coach for the San Diego Chargers. Then in January 2015, Chad returned to his roots, joining Coach Jay Gruden’s staff.
In his defensive quality control role, he assisted the outside linebackers and helped Preston Smith lead all rookies in sacks (eight) in 2015. This season, Ryan Kerrigan leads the team with 11 sacks, followed by Smith (eight).

“Just because he didn’t play in the league doesn’t mean he doesn’t know his stuff,” Kerrigan said of his position coach. “He’s as well prepared as any coach I’ve had. He’s very smart, works very hard at it, and you can see it in how well prepared we are.”
When Chad arrived at Redskins Park, he was greeted by a familiar face: “Ms. B.J.”

B.J. Blanchard, the team’s secretary the past 25 years, remembers Russ as both player and coach. (“She’s a beauty. That’s my favorite,” Russ said, warmly.) And she remembers his eldest son, too.

“The first week I started working,” Chad recalled, “she came by my office and said, ‘Do you remember me? I’m ‘Ms. B.J.’ and you and your brother were like this big, and I had to watch you guys when your dad was working and in meetings. You’d be running all through the building.’ ”
His own path

More than 600 miles now separate them, with once-a-week phone calls serving as their main source of communication in-season.

Russ had no reservations about his eldest son joining the coaching ranks; in his eyes, Chad’s “good instincts” and intelligence would carry him far in this profession. But the four-time Pro Bowl selection was quick to share some advice.

“I told him: Number one, if you’re going to get in it, you better know what you’re doing, and you better do it well or you’re not going to be in it very long,” Russ said. “And number two, you’re going to put in some hours. So, early in his career, we’d go to the beach for vacation in the summer, and he’d be like, ‘Oh, my life’s ready to end.’ And I said, ‘Yep, that’s right. You’re going to training camp.’ ”

Russ’s bluntness and tough exterior are byproducts of his rearing in Scottdale, Pa., a small town about 40 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Russ has never been one to sugarcoat things, even with his kids.

“We joke all the time,” said Chad, who married his girlfriend, Michelle, in early July. “He’s a western [Pennsylvania] guy, so he’s not an ‘I love you,’ hugs kind of guy.”

Russ laughed when told of his reputation for being less than affectionate. “That’s what Moms are for,” he said, half-jokingly. “If they fall down, you tell them to get up. You don’t go over there and, like, baby them and rub it and everything else. Things happen in life where you’re going to get knocked down, and you’ve got to be able to get back up on your own and do it again.”

As Chad sets out to establish his identity in the NFL, he knows it’s impossible to separate his story from his father’s legacy. And he’s okay with that.

“Every single article that was ever written on me turns into an article about my Dad,” said Chad, noting that the same was true throughout Cody’s high school and collegiate career. “And he’s easy to write about because he has so many accomplishments. He’s in the Hall of Fame. I guess we were just always so comfortable with ourselves and okay that we didn’t ever feel the need to be him or live up to him.”

John Riggins Jersey

Bad News for the NFL: John Riggins’ Wife Is a Lawyer.
Lisa-Marie Riggins’ fight against the NFL’s shabby treatment of older retired players.
The more Lisa-Marie Riggins spoke, the more flabbergasted Frank Fahrenkopf became. It was November 2016, and the two were having lunch at the City Club on 13th Street with Lisa-Marie’s husband, John, the Washington Redskins’ star running back in the 1970s and ’80s.

Fahrenkopf had chaired the Republican National Committee in the 1980s. Like many prominent Washingtonians of the Reagan era, he often was a guest in former Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke’s luxury box at RFK Stadium—back when the team was winning Super Bowls and when a breakaway run by “Riggo” would cause the stadium’s bleacher seats to bounce up and down. “When that place started to rock,” Fahrenkopf says, “it would literally move!”

He’d been thrilled to get Lisa-Marie’s lunch invitation. But she and John didn’t want to reminisce about gauzy past glories, such as the time John shed Miami Dolphins defender Don McNeal like a wet overcoat while rumbling 43 yards to score the go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl XVII. Instead, the couple had a case to make.

Lisa-Marie, an attorney who’s been told (more than once) that she looks like actress Heather Locklear, laid out the facts as if she were arguing a case in court. Too many older NFL retirees were in trouble, she explained. Their brains were battered, their bodies breaking down. They were struggling to support themselves and their families. They needed help. And they needed money.

These men had helped build the league, which in 2017 generated $14 billion in revenue. They had made it possible for today’s players to receive multimillion-dollar salaries, generous pensions, and a host of other retirement benefits. Yet almost none of them had gotten rich playing football, and now they were being left behind, Lisa-Marie said. Their pensions, dating from the contracts of a previous era, were relatively puny—in some cases, totaling less than $20,000 a year. Did that seem fair?

“It was incredible,” Fahrenkopf says. “With all the money flowing into the NFL and the millions the players are making today, my first thought was ‘Well, hell, if you are a retired player, you must be in pretty good shape.’ I had no idea.”

Few people do, which is why the Rigginses and other former players are now mounting a Washington-style campaign to publicize the inequities and try to get them reversed. Last September, along with Hall of Famers Elvin Bethea, Joe DeLamielleure, and Ken Houston, the couple launched a nonprofit called Fairness for Athletes in Retirement (FAIR). They want the NFL and NFL Players’ Association to institute pension reform: to spend millions to bring the paychecks of older retirees up to the level of those leaving the game today.

It’s a big ask, and the group doesn’t have much leverage. Improvements to player benefits historically have been made through collective bargaining between the league and the union—negotiations in which former players have little say, given that the union has no fiduciary responsibility to them. But even before that, FAIR has to lobby its own constituents, a group divided and suspicious due to prior efforts that raised money and promised change without producing significant results—a group, in other words, that would be plenty skeptical of a Washington lawyer. “I feel like a politician,” Lisa-Marie says.

Riggo may be the name people know, but FAIR was her idea. She’s its president, the one planning donor events and working the phone. And though she’s lived in Washington for years, in some ways she’s getting her first education in the way the town runs.

Lisa-Marie didn’t know a thing about football growing up. She was a military kid who had to learn a new community every time her father, an Army Ranger, was transferred to a new post. “My dad never even watched it,” she says.

Then in 1982, she enrolled at American University, when everyone in Washington was watching the Redskins. John was the team’s most beloved star, a country boy from Kansas who became an iconoclastic folk hero—celebrated not only for powerful, punishing runs that earned him the nickname “the Diesel” but also for his off-field wit and irreverence. His “Five O’Clock Club,” in which Redskins players would gather in a shed after practice to down brews, was the stuff of legend; so was his inebriated exhortation to Supreme Court justice Sandra Day O’Connor at a 1985 black-tie dinner: “C’mon, Sandy baby. Loosen up. You’re too tight.”

John and Lisa-Marie met in the late 1980s through Riggo’s Rangers, his foundation for military and NFL veterans. He was retired by then and still a font of colorful headlines—for his unconventional side gig (he starred in a local play), his even more unconventional living arrangements (a trailer alongside the Potomac, a storage warehouse in suburban Virginia), and one big misadventure in parking (one night he found himself blocked in outside a Georgetown restaurant and used his truck to move the other guy’s truck out of the way).
Lisa-Marie was more than a decade younger and taken at first sight. They started dating a few years later, when she was living in New York. In 1992, she went along for John’s induction into the Hall of Fame. It was her first time around a large group of retired NFL players. She felt oddly at home. Like her father’s Army buddies, they were basically a bunch of grown-up fraternity brothers—never more so than when Riggo invited his former teammates to stop by the couple’s room at the Holiday Inn.

“We probably had 30 people in there, players and coaches,” Lisa-Marie says with a laugh. “It made Animal House look like piker time.” Retired defensive end Doug Atkins never left, drinking and storytelling until 6:30 am. Finally someone from the Hall of Fame knocked on the door. Mr. Riggins, it’s time for you to get in the parade car.

Four years later, John and Lisa-Marie were married in Rudy Giuliani’s office by the mayor himself. (The story in a nutshell: When the couple decided to tie the knot, they were having a late dinner in an Italian restaurant that was empty except for Giuliani and his entourage. For good luck, they later asked him to officiate, and after Hizzoner realized their faxed request on “No. 44” stationery wasn’t a prank, he agreed.)

By the mid-aughts, John was working as a football commentator and sports talk-radio host. Lisa-Marie had a new law degree from Fordham. They had two young daughters. Life was busy but good.

Then Lisa-Marie found herself walking into a Rockefeller Center cafe one day to see some old friends, Sylvia Mackey and her husband, John, a former Baltimore Colts tight end. He was wearing one of his signature black cowboy hats, Lisa-Marie says, “but he was no longer John Mackey.”

Mackey had a man purse. Inside were crayons. He had no idea where he was and wandered around the room like a young child. Sylvia broke the news: Her husband had dementia. Diagnosed a few years earlier at age 59, he had deteriorated ever since—becoming forgetful and lethargic, refusing to brush his teeth, and on one occasion being tackled by four airport security agents after he ran through a scanner checkpoint, thinking the agents were trying to steal his Super Bowl and Hall of Fame rings.

Mackey received a monthly NFL pension of $2,450. It wasn’t enough. Sylvia had gone to work as a flight attendant to help pay his medical bills. She was struggling and looking for support.

“To see what happened to them was mind-blowing to me,” Lisa-Marie says. “That’s when I started to realize there was a problem.”

Charley Taylor Jersey

The Washington Redskins’ two biggest additions this offseason led to celebrations, high-fives and hope. These additions also led to a big debate about the numbers they would wear for a simple reason: Both wore jersey numbers that have been taken out of circulation by the organization.

The latest flap was resolved thanks to quarterback Joe Theismann, who granted first-round pick Dwayne Haskins permission to wear the No. 7 he made famous during the early 1980s. After all, Theismann was the Redskins’ first Super Bowl-winning quarterback. He’s the all-time winningest quarterback in Washington, too. In fact, he’s the only Redskin to ever wear the number.

And Wednesday, he told 106.7 The Fan that he gave permission for Haskins to wear the No. 7. Yes, the organization left the decision to Theismann.
Earlier this offseason, the talk was about safety Landon Collins and the No. 21. It’s what Collins wore with the New York Giants — and he did so to honor someone who once played for the Redskins: Sean Taylor. But Collins won’t be wearing the No. 21 this season; instead, he’ll wear No. 20, and that’s probably a good thing. Taylor still evokes strong emotions even 11-plus years after his death.

Theismann’s number was taken out of commission by former Redskins equipment manager Jay Brunetti, now with the San Francisco 49ers. Brunetti spent 26 years with the Redskins and worked for the team during the Super Bowl runs before leaving after the 2000 season.

There are two schools of thought: The young guys should prove themselves first rather than worrying about any brand; earn your standing. The flip side: At what point does a player’s “right” to a number end? How many do you keep out of circulation and why?

Theismann was an excellent player and continues to be a good ambassador. He was tough and respected and remains the only Redskins quarterback to play in two Super Bowls. But he wasn’t a Hall of Famer. Yet one of his blockers did make the Hall of Fame — Russ Grimm. And his number, 68, has subsequently been worn by seven players. Another ex-Hog, Joe Jacoby, has been a Hall of Fame finalist. Eight others have worn his No. 66.
Brian Mitchell, considered one of the best return men in history, won a Super Bowl and played 10 seasons with Washington. His No. 30 has been worn by eight others. Maybe the Redskins could put a patch somewhere on the jersey and include the names of the famous players who wore it in the past. Create a legacy.

Sonny Jurgensen is the only Redskin to wear the No. 9 and no one has worn No. 44 since John Riggins retired. Darrell Green’s No. 28 and Art Monk’s No. 81 also remain unused. All four are in the Hall of Fame.

The only retired Redskins number belongs to Sammy Baugh (33). Hall of Famer Charley Taylor’s 42 hasn’t been worn since he stopped playing in 1977. But, shockingly, Bobby Mitchell’s 49 was worn by one other player — a tight end named Leonard Stephens who lasted one season with Washington. If a number worn by Mitchell, the first African-American in franchise history and a Hall of Famer, can be worn, then it’s hard to keep others out of circulation.

The 1970s and ’80s were by far the Redskins’ best decades. The emotional tug to that successful era remains strong. It sustains a generation.

There have been excellent players in the past 20 years — Clinton Portis is No. 2 on the team’s all-time rushing list behind Riggins. The player after Portis? Larry Brown, whose No. 43 hasn’t been worn since he stopped playing in 1976. Meanwhile, Portis’ No. 26 was worn the next season. Adrian Peterson wears it now, mainly because the number he made famous in Minnesota — 28 — wasn’t an option.

Too often the past couple decades have been spent recalling the glory days. But here’s what the Redskins need: players who make the numbers they’re wearing now sacred. But for those numbers to resonate, they need to win. That’s what Haskins must do. In the end, it’s the name they’ll remember — not the number.

Sammy Baugh Jersey

This story originally aired on Dec. 16, 2018. This week it appears again as part of our “Sticky Wickets” episode.

Sammy Baugh became one of the first great quarterbacks. But he wanted to be remembered for something else. (AP)

Twenty-three years ago, sports writer Dan Daly flew to Dallas and started driving west on Highway 20 toward a part of Texas called the Big Empty.

He was searching for 81-year-old Sammy Baugh.

It had been decades since Baugh retired from the NFL as the all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns — and he hadn’t been seen outside of Texas in years.

“I’ve got my directions scribbled down on a sheet of paper,” Daly recalls. “And I’m praying to god they’re right. Because some of them sound really, really bizarre, like, ‘Take a left at State Route 580,’ and I’m thinking, ‘What if there’s no sign? What if I just drive forever and end up in Nebraska or something?’ “

Eventually, Daly turned down a dirt driveway. All around him, it was flat as far as the eye could see. The driveway led to a little white house.

“I was surprised how small a place it was,” Daly says. “I knocked on the door. No one came to the door. So I go around to the other side of the house to see if there’s a window I could look in to see if there’s anybody there. And I see this glow behind the drapes. It’s clear that somebody’s watching television. So I knock on the window, and the drapes spread, and there’s this big guy.”

It was Sammy Baugh. He came to the door.

And for the next five hours, the two men talked. Daly recorded the conversation.

Until Daly shared his mini cassettes with me last year, no one else had ever heard the recording.

For most of the five hours, Baugh laughs and tells stories about his time in the NFL — occasionally pausing to comment on the college football game on the TV, and more than occasionally pausing to spit:

“He had this gigantic plastic cup with a handle on it — the kind that you get if you’re buying, like, a Double Gulp,” Daly recalls. “And he used it as a spittoon because he was a tobacco chewer. And every minute or so he’d lean over and grab the handle and spit into the cup.”

And then there was Baugh’s language — profane, but not unfriendly.

“He didn’t have that social filter that many of us have,” Daly says. “It tells you that he probably wasn’t used to being interviewed all that much. That was part of what was going through my mind — just how isolated he was.”

Sammy Baugh — the greatest quarterback of his generation; the guy who helped make the NFL the forward pass-obsessed league that it is today — had become a reclusive cowboy.
From Third Baseman To NFL Prospect

Baugh grew up in a small Texas town. He was far more interested in playing sports than riding horses. He didn’t have anything to do with ranching.
Baugh was a decent high school football player, but his No. 1 sport was baseball. He played third base and had a great arm.

In 1933, Baugh joined the baseball and football teams at Texas Christian University. He expected to play third base and punt for the football team. He’d always been good at that.

Most college teams from the East and Midwest were still avoiding the forward pass, but Dutch Meyer — the football and baseball coach at TCU — loved it.

“Hell, we could throw the ball any time we wanted to,” Baugh told Daly. “And Dutch told us, ‘If you’ve got a reason for doing it, I’ll never second guess you.’ “

Soon Meyer figured out that his third baseman with the strong arm would actually make a darn good passer.