Two seasons ago, Timmy Smith set a Super Bowl rushing record, gaining 204 yards in the Redskins' 42-10 victory over Denver in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Monday, he was one of 11 players the Chargers cut to pare their roster to the regular-season limit of 47.
Two days ago, Charger running back Gary Anderson, an unsigned free agent, told the Chargers: Pay me or trade me.
All right, said rookie running back Marion Butts, Anderson's apparent successor, when he heard that news.
"I've been checking that out," Butts said. "He (Anderson) is asking for so much money. One individual can contribute to a team, true enough. But there are limitations (on what) one individual can do.
"Probably the only thing that individual (Anderson) can do is play tailback. You put him on kickoffs or kickoff returns and he's going to say, 'Oh no, I'm not playing there.' He (Anderson) won't be on no special teams."
Charger Coach Dan Henning stopped short of saying Butts was his new starting first- and second-down running back. So both Butts and Smith said it for him.
"Right now I probably will be," Butts said.
"Most likely it will be Marion Butts," Smith said.
The Chargers open their regular season Sunday against the Raiders in the Coliseum. To get down to the 47-man limit Monday, they also waived tight end Craig Davis, wide receiver Dokie Williams, defensive end Karl Wilson, guard Stacy Searels, free safety Michael Brooks, cornerback Johnny Thomas, inside linebacker Ricky Andrews, kicker Chris Bahr, cornerback Elliot Smith and defensive end Tyrone Keys. They also placed center/guard Dennis McKnight on injured reserve.
The Chargers expect to re-sign Bahr Wednesday because he is a vested veteran. That means if another team claims him during the 24-hour waiver period, Bahr doesn't have to join that team. He can wait another 24 hours and become a free agent. At that point, he can rejoin the Chargers.
The Bahr move enables the Chargers to keep rookie quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, Jim McMahon's backup, on their regular-season roster for one day before placing him on injured reserve. Tolliver broke his left collarbone on the second-to-last play of Friday's night exhibition finale against Phoenix.
Because of a new NFL rule, if the Chargers had placed Tolliver on injured reserve Monday, he would have had to miss the entire season. This way, they can reactivate him after six weeks.
Henning also stopped short of saying who his starting center will be against the Raiders now that McKnight is lost for the year. It will probably be rookie Courtney Hall.
But the best answer Henning could come up with when asked if it would be Hall or veteran Don Macek, was a curt: "I don't know. One of 'em."
Asked if offensive line Coach Larry Beightol knew who the starting center would be, Henning said: "He doesn't know either." This is the same Henning who has closed practices to the media this week, the first time that has happened with this franchise in recent memory.
Henning continued his purge of older, unproductive players in favor of youth. Six drafted rookies--defensive end Burt Grossman, Hall, Tolliver, Butts, swingman Dana Brinson and running back Victor Floyd--survived the final cut. Floyd and Butts tied for the team lead in rushing with 93 yards each during the exhibition season. Brinson led the Chargers in receiving with 10 receptions for 100 yards.
"Guys like me and Victor (Floyd) are fresh out of college," said Butts, a power back at 6-1, 248 pounds. "We're young and fluid and not getting paid that much. But what's Gary Anderson asking? He's asking enough that you can basically pay all the guys from the third through the 12th round (with the same amount)."
Smith suffered in his competition with Butts because of a bad ankle and the resultant inability to raise his value by playing on special teams. "I believe I got a fair shot," Smith said. "I just don't think I took advantage of it. In this game, you have to play hurt."
Said the not-so-bashful Butts: "I believe I had a terrific preseason."
Tolliver's college teammate at Texas Tech, rookie free agent Wayne Walker, also made the roster as did four other wide receivers--Anthony Miller, Jamie Holland, Quinn Early and Darren Flutie.
Floyd, Butts and veteran Tim Spencer are the only pure running backs remaining. But Brinson, a return specialist and receiver, also comes in as a back on third-down plays. And Henning said H-back Rod Bernstine has been working part time in practice as a running back.
Henning also said the Chargers will probably re-sign several of the waived rookies and first-year players to the six-man developmental squad the league allows teams to keep starting today.
Keys, who started 11 games for the Chargers last year, plans to remain in San Diego to rehabilitate the right knee he injured against the Cardinals.
Meanwhile, he has agreed in principle to a salary settlement with the Chargers, who were then able to waive him while he was still injured. The alternative was the injured reserve list, which would have cost Keys the entire season. Neither he nor the Chargers wanted that. But Keys was bitter about the options facing him and the Chargers.
"You get a guy who tests positive for drugs and he's out for four weeks," Keys said. "And then you get a guy who's hurt and they want to punish him for the whole year. That's kind of crazy."
The loss for the season of long-snapper Dennis McKnight has the Chargers looking for a replacement. Andy Parker and Courtney Hall are the current candidates. "Yes," said Charger Coach Dan Henning, "that is a major concern." . . . On the most nervous day of the year, senses of humor were hard to find, but they did exist. "I'm going to Buffalo," said receptionist Stella Viets during a mid-morning break. "They're sending three secretaries in return."