CARLISLE, Pa. -- If coach Joe Gibbs needs any excuses this year, he's got a virtual cornucopia of them.
The Washington Redskins broke training camp yesterday at Dickinson College without two starters, cornerback Darrell Green and offensive lineman Jim Lachey, and top draft pick Desmond Howard showing up.
On top of that, quarterback Mark Rypien put in only a three-day cameo appearance at camp, defensive tackle Eric Williams was lost for 10 weeks with a knee injury, backup offensive lineman Mark Adickes may have to retire with a back ailment and guard Raleigh McKenzie wound up at left tackle. And the team has lost three preseason games by a total of four points.
It doesn't help that they returned from London on Monday, will fly to Los Angeles today for tomorrow's preseason game against the Los Angeles Raiders and return next week to move into a new training complex in Ashburn, Va.
Gibbs isn't looking for sympathy, though. When the season starts Sept. 7, few likely will care about the problems.
All they'll care about is whether Gibbs can find a way to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the Monday night opener.
"I doubt if that'll ever get mentioned," Gibbs said of all the problems he's facing.
"You mean is there going to be an excuse on this deal?" he said. "I doubt it."
Gibbs said he knows what he'll be hearing if things don't go well. He's heard it all so often in the past that he can joke about it.
"I got a feeling the players will probably be too old or I'll be too preoccupied or too easy or too . . . Let's see what else could it be this year, [should we] change the offense, get out of the one back. I got a feeling it'll fall in one of those categories and probably all of them in one way or the other," he said.
He also can laugh about how the columnists will explain where things went wrong if the Redskins don't meet expectations.
"They'll [fans] pick up the paper and see that written and they say, 'This must be somebody who's knowledgeable and been around this and studied it so it must be right.' You ought to put that what this [columnist] really means is 'I've never been to the complex, I've never been around these guys, I just sit at home like the rest of you guys and watch TV and just make this stuff up,' " he said.
Gibbs then laughed at his own joke. In his 12th year on the job, he doesn't let things bother him the way he did earlier in his career.
He still remembers when a Washington columnist suggested he'd lost confidence in John Riggins after a 1984 playoff loss to the Chicago Bears.
"That was the last time I really got mad [at the media]. I figured that didn't do me any good anyway," he said.
He even thinks learning to cope with the holdouts is better than losing players if they had the option of free agency.
"I don't want free agency. That may be good for the players. But if you're talking selfishly as a coach, you don't like the idea of losing your players. Hey, if we go that way, we'd probably do pretty good. We've got a good town and we've got a good owner who wants to win. As a coach, you'd hate to lose a chunk of your players, but we've had some other things happen to the NTC NFL and adjusted to them," he said.
As a veteran coach, he learns to adjust.
"I just get in the river with everybody else and go with the wash and save a lot of strain on my heart," he said.
One reason Gibbs may be able to be so philosophical is that, despite his problems, there aren't too many coaches he'd trade problems with.
Even with Green, Lachey and Williams missing, he's got 19 of the 22 starters who lined up in the Super Bowl in January. It's also likely that Green and Lachey will arrive in time to start collecting paychecks for the first game.
As far as an overall evaluation of camp, he said, "You never get everything done in camp that you want to get done, but we've had good work."
NOTES: WR Gary Clark missed the final practice of camp yesterday to meet with his lawyers. He's been charged with felony theft after being stopped for speeding in a stolen vehicle. He contends he didn't know it was stolen when he purchased it from a friend. Clark, who will make the trip to Los Angeles today, faces a Sept. 17 court appearance.