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The Redskins convened in Ashburn for their spring minicamp last week, but all the best action took place off the field.

First, absenteeism made the so-called Quarterback School laughably unnecessary. Hooky-players of note included both starting QB Gus Frerotte and his likely backup, Jeff Hostetler. The defense’s moping linchpin, Sean Gilbert, rounded out the list of no-shows. The Skins’ franchise player is by most accounts getting as big as a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise while holed up in Pennsylvania. Then came some major roster moves. The careers of one of the team’s bigger names, Sterling Palmer, and its biggest mouth, Scott Galbraith, fell victim to the salary cap. And free-agent receiver Alvin Harper disclosed that even though he doesn’t have a contract, he has already rented a home in the Virginia suburbs, which suggests he’ll be the offense’s go-to guy whenever Michael Westbrook pulls something or other.

The most watchable development, however, came just as camp adjourned, when the grieving widow Marlena got around to suing the estate. The executor of her ex-mate’s estate had already publicly accused Marlena of violating a prenuptial agreement and proposed that she walk away from the Cooke gold mine with nothing but the shaft. That sort of talk made the litigation every bit as predictable as Gilbert’s offseason weight gain. During her husband’s infirm last days (and, more specifically, nights), Marlena flouted those “man and wife” clauses: Mister Cooke had one foot in grave; Missus Cooke had both feet on a dance floor. But only a fool or a stepson could expect her to just sit pretty after getting stiffed by the stiff.

Now she’s going after her share. Marlena’s just asking for a third. Greedy? Hell, Juan Perón’s widow got a whole country.

Washingtonians give more than a rat’s ass about just one slice of the deceased’s very prosperous pie: the pro football franchise. John Kent Cooke inherited the Skins’ presidential mantle but needs more cash to seize ownership. (Heath Shuler, after three years as essentially a nonworking employee, now has a whole lot more of the elder Cooke’s scratch in his bank account than does John, who has spent his entire career as dad’s toady.) If Marlena prevails in her suit, the Bad Wife should be in far better fiscal position to worm her way to the top of the burgundy and gold heap than will the Good Son.

Don’t count her out.

The stated motivation behind Jack Kent Cooke’s fateful and final Codicil No. 8—the one that took Marlena out of the will—was his wife’s extended Mexican excursion. Any good lawyer would only have to argue that Marlena went South of the Border just to find a kicker for her ailing husband’s ball club. Scott Blanton hasn’t made many potential jury members forget Mark Mosely around these parts, so that should be a winning argument.

So should Skins fans start fearing the reign of Marlena? The sports world provides plenty of fear fodder. Look what happened to the Rams after Carroll Rosenbloom went sleeping with the fishes—Georgia Frontiere made the team a laughingstock and then moved it to St. Louis. And the Cincinnati Reds, the oldest and once the proudest franchise in all of baseball, became a truly shameful lot once Marge Schott moved swastikas and big dogs into Riverfront when her hubby passed on.

But maybe a coup de Ramallo is just what this team needs. Think of all the fun she’d bring with her.

There’ll be some rough spots. Marlena, having different priorities from Charley Casserly, might need help in the personnel area, lest we hear, “And with their first pick, the Washington Redskins select…Menudo” come draft day.

But she also has areas of expertise that could help out the beleaguered general manager. Gilbert and Frerotte want new deals. Marlena talked JKC into remarrying her even after her bigamy and criminal past were exposed. Now that’s negotiating. And then she lived under his salary cap for years.

The Skins uniforms haven’t changed in ages, so look for the new owner, who’s never lacking for Armani touches, to outfit her squad in a drop-shoulder number, something that shows a lot of thigh pad.

She knows partying, too. The owner’s box, a playpen for the powerful under Jack Kent Cooke, would be, well, a playpen with Marlena in control. Gen. Colin Powell’s regular seat could be ably filled by tail-gunning Gen. Ralston, even without a Senate confirmation. Chuck Robb, preferably with Tai Collins, should get the passes mailed to similarly former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder. Leslie Stahl, out; Daisy Fuentes, in. Jack brought Coco to every game; Marlena’ll have a golden-haired retriever on a very short leash in the box with her, but he’ll have only two legs. And the more INS reps that want to mooch ducats, the merrier.

With every Skins score, the stadium will still shake—with “The Macarena,” not “Hail to the Redskins.” The Redskinettes would be under orders to do cartel-wheels. A lack of food and beverage availability always proved an annoyance at RFK. Given Marlena’s past, can anybody doubt coke vendors will be camped all over Raljon? (The players might also want to get used to the idea of traveling in a team plane that flies under radar.)

On the field, Marlena’s contacts could help out, too. Her other ex-husband, the drug-dealing one that’s still alive, is by now well established in a Texas prison cellblock. Who better to get the inside scoop on the Cowboys?

Nobody, not even John Kent Cooke, could really believe Marlena would fade quietly into that dark night after

her husband died. She never glows so bright as when the sun is down.—Dave McKenna