EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Not since Ingrid Bergman left Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca" has there been so much drama surrounding an airplane departure.
As the Washington Redskins prepared for tonight's exhibition game against the New York Jets, much of the team's focus was on whether quarterback Mark Rypien will be on the plane Tuesday night when the team departs Dulles International Airport for London.
Instead of the letters of transit, Rypien needs a signed contract to get on that plane for the team's Aug. 16 exhibition against the San Francisco 49ers.
It would make quite a scene with general manager Charley Casserly on the tarmac of the airport, pen in hand, telling Rypien that he'll regret it if he's not on the plane, "maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life."
Well, real life is never as dramatic as the movies, but Rypien's agent, Ken Staninger, was giving broad hints yesterday that Rypien plans to be on that plane.
"There's interest on both sides to try to get it done. The timing is right," Staninger said. "They leave for London Tuesday, and it's difficult to negotiate when they're overseas, especially when you're up against a deadline."
The deadline is Aug. 17, when the Redskins have threatened to reduce the offers to their holdouts if they're not signed by then.
"Basically what we're trying to do is to have both sides compromise and get it done," Staninger said. Staninger, though, said that the Redskins haven't done any compromising yet. They've made only a "small increase" in the offer that Rypien called a "slap in the face" three weeks ago. The Redskins reportedly are now up to about $3 million a year.
Even though Staninger said he was "little bit optimistic," he also said that nothing has happened in the talks the past two days.
Casserly, who declined to comment on the negotiations, apparently was supposed to spell out an incentive package on Thursday, but, when called, said he wasn't ready to propose it. Staninger said he planned to talk with Casserly today.
What seems to be happening is that Rypien is tired of holding out. He apparently likes to play too much to get involved in a long holdout that would jeopardize his season. The Redskins had figured he'd cave in sooner than this.
Last year, he lasted only 10 days before coming in for $1.25 million.
Even coach Joe Gibbs hinted he thought Rypien would be coming in soon.
There's no indication, though, that veterans Jim Lachey and Darrell Green and rookie Desmond Howard have plans to end their holdouts. They'll probably wait until the Aug. 17 deadline and then decide their next moves.
Meanwhile, quarterback Cary Conklin will make his second start tonight against the Jets' Browning Nagle, who is trying to win the starting job from Ken O'Brien, who also is holding out.
Gibbs said last week that Conklin and Jeff Rutledge would start the first two games, but reserved the right to change his mind. When Conklin threw three touchdown passes last week in a 22-21 loss to the Miami Dolphins, it was obvious he would change his mind.
NOTES: The Minnesota Vikings have told QB Rich Gannon they'll get another quarterback if he doesn't end his holdout soon, prompting speculation they might be interested in Stan Humphries, who is biding his time until Rypien returns. But Casserly said the Vikings haven't contacted him. . . . Matt Elliott, the final player selected in this year's draft, will start at center if Jeff Bostic sits out with his ailing knee.