CANTON, Ohio -- Preseason games don't get any juicier than
Joe Gibbs coaches his first NFL game in 12 years, returning from
NASCAR to lead the Washington Redskins. Clinton Portis and Champ Bailey,
traded for each other in one of the biggest football deals in
recent memory, square off immediately.
And with their first Hall of Famer, John Elway, in the audience,
the Denver Broncos try to make it a perfect weekend for the
Not bad for the kickoff to the NFL's exhibition season.
Gibbs, himself a member of the Hall after coaching the Redskins
to three championships, not surprisingly is taking a business-first
approach to Monday night's game.
"We'll just treat it as our first go-around working against
another team," he said. "It will be good from that standpoint. We
are a new staff, it'll probably take us an extra game or two in
preseason to get a feel for some of the problems that we will have
going through our first game. And you know, through that standpoint
I'm looking at it as a positive thing."
Gibbs will have plenty of adjustments to make, beginning with
the challenge system for replays, and including the
coach-quarterback transmitter for relaying plays to the huddle.
He's never worked with either.
"I practiced it," he said of the transmitter. "The first
thing you do is you start off and hit the button and you go, 'You
"The bad thing is they shut it off with 15 seconds to go."
Actually, though, Gibbs likes it.
"I think it's much more efficient. It's quicker," he said.
"The hand-signal thing really drives you crazy. Somebody picking
something up, you're constantly worried about that. I think this is
a much better system. I think it speeds play-calling up. I'm just
glad they can't talk back to me: 'You idiot. Why did you call
As for replay, Gibbs admitted, "That's going to be different for
me. You're going to have to make decisions, and some of those
decisions are 'Can you appeal this play or can't you?'"
Providing Gibbs with something of a comfort zone will be Clinton Portis. Gibbs' strong Redskins teams were predicated on a balanced
offense featuring one ball carrier. That guy will be Portis, the
2002 Offensive Rookie of the Year who rushed for 1,591 yards and 14
touchdowns last season.
Portis doesn't expect to see a lot of time Monday night,
particularly with the Redskins having an extra preseason game this
Still, Portis wouldn't mind one breakaway run against Denver,
preferably with star cornerback Bailey chasing him.
"It's somewhere in the back of my mind that if I go out and get
one carry for 85 yards, I probably haven't got to play anymore that
game," Portis said. "I'm just hoping I get one carry for 85
That's not what Bailey wants to see, of course. After the
Redskins traded him to Denver for Portis in March, Bailey doesn't
mind facing Washington immediately.
"How ironic? Like they really made that mistake," he said.
"It's good for me to play it. I get to see a lot of my old
"We take it serious, but we aren't going to be out there that
long. We'll get our work in and see how it goes. It doesn't count
Yet, maybe it counts a little more for the Broncos, who would
like to put on a good show in front of their greatest player. Elway
was inducted into the Hall of Fame on Sunday along with Barry
Sanders, Carl Eller and Bob Brown.
"I just get real excited because of John the person," said
receiver Rod Smith, one of Elway's prime targets through the years.
"He taught me a lot and I just have so much respect for him as a
person, as a man, as a businessman, and on top of that he was a
great football player. That's the only place he should end up.
First ballot for sure, and the best to ever play the game."