posted on Sep, 10 2004 @ 08:59 PM
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) On Wednesday, Joe Gibbs kept rubbing his eyes when he spoke after practice, as if in need of a late afternoon nap. On Friday, his
answers were short and void of any emotion.
All week, LaVar Arrington's eyes were bloodshot, and he kept referring to a nemesis he called the "tired monster."
To a man, the players said they've never been worked so hard, and it showed as they walked in super-slow motion each day off the practice field.
The Washington Redskins are a tired football team, and the season hasn't even started yet.
"I was fighting that tired monster," Arrington said after one practice. "He was on the field, and he was running after everybody."
That's normal talk for a losing team in November, when the physical pain of the long season is ever-present, and no end appears in sight.
But this is September. The Redskins are 0-0. They open the new Gibbs era Sunday at home against Tampa Bay. Why do they already feel so weary?
"We're working hard," defensive tackle Brandon Noble said. "This is old-time football. They're working us hard, and they're getting us ready, so
that's why. It was a physical camp. It's been a physical week leading up to the game, and that's the way they believe in doing things, and that's
cool. We're going to be as battle-tested as you can be going into the game."
Gibbs' long hours, of course, are well known. He and his staff work every night into the wee hours, just as they did when he last coached the team
more than a decade ago.
"We don't really worry about hours," assistant coach Joe Bugel said. "Just so we get an hour-and-a-half, two hours (of sleep), I think we're
refreshed. That's why we work out; we watch what we're eating. We leave no stones unturned. If it takes us 28 hours, we'll do it. Our wives understand
that. If I got home at 2 in the morning, my wife would maybe think I got fired."
While Gibbs doesn't make the players stay deep into the night, he's still very demanding of them, pushing his high standards through long, detailed
meetings and tough practices.
"This week, they've worked harder than I've seen any team work," assistant coach Gregg Williams said. "Coach Gibbs wants that out of them, and those
guys have responded and given it to them."
t's a level of intensity unfamiliar to many players.
"We're working a lot harder, so you've got to make it up somewhere," kick returner Chad Morton said. "So they can't do the things they usually do,
whether it be hanging out, or watching TV late at night or something like that. Gibbs is pushing us."
Gibbs, when asked about the team looking tired, said all he's done is send the players through "a normal process, trying to get ready" for the
Is this a reason for concern? If the workload is this draining, how can the players last the full season?
Or will they just get used to it?
"It's definitely something different from what we've all encountered," center Cory Raymer said. "It's still the beginning of what we're doing right
now. In another couple of weeks, it'll be second nature. We'll be in shape for doing it, so it'll kind of go a little easier. He's done it this way
for so long, and it's worked. It's been proven, so it's the way it's going to be."
A more immediate concern is whether the players will have any energy left for the fourth quarter Sunday against the Buccaneers. Arrington raised the
issue while making an appeal to the fans to be more supportive of the team, saying that the "tired monster is scared when the 12th man is on the
But the players, including Arrington, expect they'll be fine for the game. The practices on Friday and Saturday are less demanding, with more emphasis
placed on the meetings. Also, the adrenaline of a season opener in front of big crowd welcoming Gibbs back should be more than enough to see the team
"Our practices are much harder than what the games will be," Arrington said. "I'm excited just because I know how hard we're working, and it's going
to be a lot of fun doing something much easier than what we've been doing all week."