HERNDON, Va. -- Joe Gibbs says he knows where the fans would have wanted to see him yesterday if quarterback Mark Rypien had been injured seriously in the fourth quarter of a meaningless game against the New York Giants on Sunday.
Looking at the flagpole out the window at Redskin Park, the Washington Redskins coach said: "I would have been [hanging] right from that flagpole right there. Hey, that's the risk you run. That's what I do for a living. Yes, this week, somebody can get hurt and they'll say I cost us the season. I think the other way is a risk, too. I don't think you can go in the other way," resting starters.
Gibbs was lucky that Rypien wasn't injured seriously when he tore the nail on his middle finger throwing a touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter on a fake reverse.
Until the X-rays were taken during the game and proved nTC negative, the Redskins were worried that the injury might be serious.
But Rypien said yesterday that he wouldn't even miss any practice time and would be ready to go tomorrow when they open the drills for the game Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Wearing only a Band-Aid on the finger, Rypien said, "There's no swelling. There's [just] some tenderness at the tip."
Gibbs had no second thoughts about leaving Rypien in with a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter in a game the Redskins won, 34-17.
"I know I open myself up for criticism. Hey, I've already heard it. What if Ryp got hurt, it was a trick play. Hey, we had [only] a 10-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter. I thought it was a good play," he said.
Against the Eagles, a team that knocked out two Redskins quarterbacks (Jeff Rutledge and Stan Humphries) last year, Gibbs will use the same philosophy and go with Rypien all the way.
"I'm thinking we're going to play it the way we played the Giant game, going as hard as we can. . . . If there's any change in that thinking, you'll be the last to know. You've got to play great against Philadelphia, no matter what. It'll be a good test. It's one more shot for us to get ready," he said.
He means getting ready for the playoffs.
Although the NFL hasn't listed the playoff pairings yet, all indication are that the Redskins will play at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 5.
The Redskins will play the wild-card survivor with the worst record. There's a chance they could play the Dallas Cowboys, the only team to beat them this year.
That the prospect of losing Rypien scared the Redskins shows how far he's come in a season. Just five months ago, owner Jack Kent Cooke called him a "bloody idiot" for holding out. He had to accept a one-year contract for a $1.25 million base salary, which is below the going rate for starting quarterbacks.
Now, he's virtually certain to be named to the Pro Bowl tomorrow. The Redskins, who aren't allowed to vote for their players, nominated Troy Aikman of the Cowboys and Steve Young of the San Francisco 49ers, but both have been injured.
Even Gibbs says he's been surprised by Rypien's season.
"I don't think anybody in preseason would have predicted he'd have that kind of year. Is it a surprise? From where we were then to where we are today, yeah. To say he was going to have that kind of a year, you'd have to rate that as a long shot last summer. He's worked very hard for it," Gibbs said.
Rypien isn't concerned about personal honors.
"I'd be honored [at making the Pro Bowl], but there's more things out there than that. Everyone on our team can be a part of winning the Super Bowl," he said.
Since Rutledge has seen only token action and Humphries hasn't taken a snap, the Redskins know if they're going to the Super Bowl, Rypien has to take them there.
NOTES: Gibbs can become the first coach to win the Super Bowl with 3 different quarterbacks. He did it earlier with Joe Theismann and Doug Williams. . . . Bill Parcells is the only other coach to win it with 2. Don Shula went to the Super Bowl with 4 quarterbacks, but won it only with Bob Griese. . . . If the Redskins don't give up a sack Sunday, they'll end the season with 6 and break the record of 7 set by the 1988 Dolphins. Philadelphia got credit for 2 sacks in the first game, but didn't tackle Rypien. He lost the ball once and tripped once. Rypien has been tackled only twice on the 6 sacks.