As football has grown more complicated, so has the market for players who can meet its needs. That’s good news for specialists but bad news for players who have the ability to contribute in many ways.
At the conclusion of the Chargers’ workout Thursday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, Coach Dan Henning addressed the plight of a veteran player who is a shining example of this but whose football light may soon be snuffed out.
Tim Spencer is described in the 1990 media guide as the Chargers’ most experience runner and blocker. In 1989, Spencer rushed for 521 yards on 134 carries, second only to Marion Butts.
But his position is endangered; 13 players must go by Tuesday, the NFL’s deadline to get rosters down to 47.
Henning said he would be disappointed if the Chargers do let go of Spencer, a six-year veteran.
“I would miss him,” he said, “but it would be based on other people are capable of doing what he can do, and he just gets caught in the shuffle.”
Henning said Spencer, who started at running back for part of last season, then started at H-back for the last game, would have had a better chance if they had to cut a total of 27 players.
“He’s a guy that was very valuable to us last year in a number of areas,” Henning said. “If we had to go to a 33-man roster, Tim Spencer would have a better chance of making this team than five or six other guys that have a chance now because we’re at 47.
With specialization, Henning said, you are constantly putting in new players for specific purposes, diminishing the need for a player with Spencer’s qualities.
“Tim is a very complete type of football player,” Henning said, “but there are some other people in his area that do some specialized things better than he does any one individually, so, at the 47-man squad, he can be a very valuable guy to us or he might slip through the cracks.”
Forty-five years ago, Henning said, Spencer would have been invaluable.
“You’d have about 14 players on offense, 14 defensive players, a couple of kickers, a few spares, and you get more into a homogeneous type of offense and defense game plan, the way it was 45 years ago. . . . A a guy doing as much as Tim does would become doubly valuable as you go down in numbers.”
Tight end Arthur Cox, nose tackle Les Miller, tackles Joel Patten and Leo Goeas and guard/tackle Broderick Thompson aren’t injured and will miss Saturday’s final exhibition game Saturday against the Raiders . . . Coach Dan Henning said the exhibition season is too long and should be whittled down from four to three games. “It’s a serious pain in the (tail). The way it ought to be is play three games and give you two weeks before the season. Everyone’s worried about who’s going to be where, when and whether they’re going to make the team. Legitimately you’re talking about letting 13 guys go, but that doesn’t mean 13 guys are uptight, because 26 don’t know whether they’re one of the 13, so you have almost 40% of the team worried about where they’re going to be Tuesday.”