posted on Aug, 9 2004 @ 10:43 AM
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 franchise.
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
"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 idiot!'
"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 that?'"
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 summer.
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 yards."
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
"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 teammates.
"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 until September."
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."