Rypien's return lifts Redskins But QB is rusty after month layoff


ASHBURN, Va. -- Linebacker Carl Banks spotted quarterback Mark Rypien surrounded by a group of reporters outside the Washington Redskins locker room yesterday and yelled, "How do you feel?"

"Excellent, Carl, thank you very much. I appreciate it," Rypien answered.

Banks then said: "They were asking me earlier today and I wasn't supposed to say whether you did well or not."

Rypien replied: "You can tell them I was feeling good."

The lighthearted banter after practice was a sign of the upbeat mood at Redskin Park yesterday.

The Redskins know they've got their quarterback back. They can pencil him in as the starter Sunday against the New York Giants.

There's nothing like the starting quarterback's return to the lineup to buoy a team's spirits.

Coach Richie Petitbon is being stubborn and won't make it official, but Rypien passed the biggest test yesterday on his tender right knee.

He didn't have any swelling on the knee when he woke up after practicing Wednesday and he practiced with no problem yesterday.

"That was a big hurdle," Rypien said.

Since he took all the offensive snaps yesterday, the Redskins are committed to him as their starter.

As offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower said: "You've got to commit yourself one way or the other. If you don't attempt to get your starter ready, then you're going to have an incomplete preparation."

Petitbon, who declined to answer questions about his quarterbacks Wednesday, was in a more talkative mood yesterday.

"He practiced again and he seems to be no worse from yesterday. We'll take a wait-and-see attitude and just see what happens," Petitbon said.

The only question now is how sharp Rypien will be after a month layoff. Petitbon kept practice closed to reporters, but Rypien and Dowhower both admitted the quarterback was missing his targets.

Rypien said jokingly: "If I have another practice like I did today, I probably won't even be making the trip. It was a tough day on the field today. I didn't hit a lot of things. I just didn't have a good day of practice."

Rypien added: "I felt good. I threw the ball well. They were good spirals. Maybe that's the uncharacteristic thing. They're spirals. I usually don't throw good spirals."

Dowhower said: "He wasn't as sharp today [Thursday] as he was yesterday. He didn't have a great day. His timing was off. He wasn't up to his standards or ours."

Dowhower said one of the problems is that the receivers have a series of nagging injuries.

"The receivers aren't going full blast so it's hard to get a good read. I don't want it to sound like an excuse, it's just a matter of us going out there Friday and having a better practice. We're not in midseason form, I guarantee you that. Everything's not going to be perfect when you come back after a layoff."

Dowhower hopes Rypien does better in the game.

"As you go along in the game, you can get better and better as you play. You hope it's like a bicycle. You don't lose the feel for keeping your balance," he said.

The Redskins know how much difference Rypien can make. They have lost three straight since Rypien was injured in the first half against the Phoenix Cardinals in the second game of the season.

The Redskins' backup situation is in a state of flux. Veteran Rich Gannon is currently No. 2, but he was benched by the Minnesota Vikings last year and he has yet to start for the Redskins. Cary Conklin started the last two games, but was yanked last Monday night against the Miami Dolphins.

"I think he has a tremendous influence on our team," Petitbon said of Rypien. "They [Gannon and Conklin] aren't battle-tested with us. Mark is."

NOTES: Charles Mann, who had knee surgery Monday, said he'll practice in about three weeks and play the last nine or 10 games. Mann, 32, said: "I've proven the last few years when I'm healthy I've produced. I don't think it has anything to do with age.". . . . DT Bobby Wilson (knee) returned to practice and will start Sunday. . . . Giants LB Lawrence Taylor tested his tender left hamstring during practice yesterday and showed enough mobility to ease coach Dan Reeves' concerns about his availability for Sunday's game. "He looked a lot better than he did a week ago," Reeves said after practice. "He was moving a lot better."

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