Gibbs holds early minicamp for 'Skins
ASHBURN, Va. -- Shortly after lunch Friday afternoon, Joe Gibbs will walk onto the field and conduct his first NFL practice in 12 years.
The never-expected sight happens as the Washington Redskins open a three-day minicamp, which Gibbs scheduled for the earliest date the NFL would allow. Nervous but invigorated, the coach wants to get to know his players as he tries to reconstruct the magic of the 1980s and early '90s.
"I think you're more excited than you would be in the middle of a five- or six-year run," Gibbs said.
"I've been away from it for a long time. When I was trying to decide whether I was coming back, I don't think you sit there and go: 'Here's what I'm going to face; this is how different it is.' I have no clue. I always found with that, just dive into it. That's pretty much what we did."
The Hall of Fame coach knows a few things have changed since he won his three Super Bowls, but he's already out to defy one modern-day NFL axiom. At a Thursday night team dinner, he planned to let the players know his feelings about the notion that a core group can't remain intact for a long period under free agency.
"I don't think that's true. I've done the homework on it, and you can," Gibbs said. "I'm going to tell them what I'm going to look for is somebody (who) wants to be a core Redskins guy."
Gibbs didn't go into detail, but he said he had only two basic rules for his players to obey: "common sense" and "don't embarrass the Redskins."
Gibbs didn't have to emphasize such ground rules for much of his first term in Washington from 1991-92, when veterans such as Art Monk and Jeff Bostic set the example for many years running.
"We had a core group. If we had a meeting, I met with those guys," Gibbs said. "We're going to miss that. That's why I'm nervous right now. ... We're going to go back and try to re-create all that, find the guys that are Redskins."
Two months after ending his retirement, Gibbs said he had only spoken to perhaps 20 percent of his players before they began arriving this week. Some of those he did meet, while respecting Gibbs' credentials, were understandably apprehensive about the fact that he's the fifth Redskins coach in five years.
"I'm sick and tired of us changing coaches all the time," Gibbs said one player told him.
"I said, 'I am too. Let's don't do that anymore, OK?' I had to laugh because some of them are upset because we're changing coaches," Gibbs said with his familiar high-pitched laugh.
Gibbs already has a couple of controversies on his hands, and both threaten to be distractions this weekend. Linebacker LaVar Arrington is upset because he claims the Redskins cheated him out of $6.5 million when his contract was renegotiated in December, and quarterback Patrick Ramsey's agent isn't happy with the signing of free agent Mark Brunell.
Gibbs said he expected Arrington to show up for minicamp, pointing out Arrington's recent comments in which the linebacker said he bore no grudge against the coaching staff. Arrington has filed a grievance over the dispute, however, and his outspoken position holds greater sway because he's one of the locker room leaders.
Ramsey will need to clear up once and for all his position on the Brunell trade, which likely will bump Ramsey out of the starting job. Ramsey's agent, Jimmy Sexton, has publicly lobbied for a trade, but Ramsey himself has said little.
Overall, Gibbs said he was pleased with the results from owner Dan Snyder's aggressive approach to free agency, but he also said the team "got burned" by making mistakes he doesn't plan on repeating next year.
But that's down the road. Now it's time to go back on the field and coach.
"You're going to have the normal skepticism coming back," Gibbs said. "I'm coming into this thing obligated that I've got to prove myself again."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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