Finally, Gibbs says Redskins not an underdog--in 1983


WASHINGTON -- Eight years later, Joe Gibbs is finally willing to admit it.

There was actually a time when the Washington Redskins coach didn't think he was an underdog. There was a time he didn't think he had any major weaknesses.

Gibbs, who is noted for poor-mouthing and always portraying himself as the underdog, said Wednesday when the Redskins closed camp that he opened the 1983 season in a confident mood.

"I wish I had the luxury of saying, 'Hey, we're great this year.' In '83, that was the closest I came to it. I didn't know of any weaknesses. I felt good," he said.

That was the year the Redskins were defending Super Bowl champions, went 14-2 during the regular season and returned to the Super Bowl. It was the year when Joe Theismann passed for 3,714 yards and John Riggins ran for 1,347.

It was a perfect season -- until the Super Bowl. They were blown out by the Los Angeles Raiders, 38-9.

As he approaches this season, Gibbs is taking his normal approach. He says he doesn't know how good his team is.

"I don't know where we are. I never know until we tee it up. . . . About three-quarters of the way through the season I'll know where we are," he said.

The Redskins, though, look in good shape. They got through camp with only two major injuries -- tight end Don Warren's broken fibula and cornerback A.J. Johnson's dislocated wrist.

Meanwhile, the two teams that are supposed to give them their toughest challenges -- the New York Giants and the San Francisco -- have big problems.

The left side of the Giants line, Jumbo Elliott and William Roberts, is holding out; San Francisco hasn't developed a running game, and quarterback Joe Montana has a sore arm.

* Ted Rogers was just another face in the crowd in training camp.

A free-agent linebacker from Williams, he's not likely to survive Tuesday's cut from 77 to 60 players.

But last night's exhibition game against the Cleveland Browns was special for Rogers. He's a native of Chevy Chase, Md., who grew up following the Redskins.

"I grew up the biggest fan you can imagine," he said.

His father, a Washington lawyer, is a big fan, too. He even saw the Redskins' famous 73-0 loss to the Chicago Bears in the 1940 championship game.

* There was no change in the stalled talks about Houston Oilers defensive end Sean Jones yesterday. General manager Charley Casserly said he isn't even sure the Oilers want to trade Jones, who is holding out.

* The Redskins' thinnest position going into the regular season is likely to be cornerback. A.J. Johnson is out, Sidney Johnson is ailing with a shoulder injury and Martin Mayhew struggled in camp.

The Redskins haven't found any teams willing to trade a cornerback, but they are likely to be watching the waiver wire the next two weeks to see whether any player gets cut who could be brought in for depth.

Since the Redskins open against the Detroit Lions, who often use four wide receivers, the cornerbacks are likely to get a tough test in that game.

* Quarterback Mark Rypien, who held out for 10 days at the start of camp, got only a lukewarm reception when he was introduced before the game. He was introduced between two popular players, Art Monk and Earnest Byner, and they both received much warmer welcomes.

Rypien also got a light booing when he overthrew his first third-down pass on the Redskins' first series.

* Gibbs, who said he wanted to give running back Gerald Riggs some "quality time" with the first unit, decided to start Riggs over Byner to give him a good look.

On the first play, Rypien handed off to Riggs, who then handed it to Gary Clark for an 18-yard gain on a reverse. On Riggs' first carry, he gained 5 yards up the middle. When he got only 10 yards in eight carries against the New England Patriots last week, the Redskins attributed the poor showing to his not working out with the top unit.

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