ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- Joe Gibbs' return to coaching is becoming a cloak-and-dagger operation.
Gibbs is so intent on avoiding distractions and keeping his game plans secret that the cleaning staff is not allowed on the coaches' side of the
building during meetings. He said Thursday that there will be "limited number" of practices open to the public at this summer's training camp, and he
has taken the unusual step of barring reporters from watching most of this weekend's three-day minicamp.
"There's a lot of technical things that you're going over," Gibbs said. "You would prefer to be able to do that without people standing there watching
Nearly all Redskins training camp practices have been open to the public for almost a decade. The team even charged admission to watch the practices
in an ill-fated experiment in 2000. Minicamps, while closed to the public, have been open in their entirety to reporters, a policy that lasted through
coaches Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer and Steve Spurrier. Former owner Jack Kent Cooke would even turn the final day of the final minicamp
practice into a big spring picnic, inviting scores of VIPs.
But Gibbs does not want extra people around. This weekend, he is allowing reporters to watch only the first few minutes of each practice, which
generally includes stretching and simple individual drills. The fans who flock to training camp, which starts around Aug. 1, will have to be content
with just a few open practices, likely during the first two weeks.
"I don't care if you're taking a test or what you're doing," Gibbs said, "if there's things walking around, and people talking, good-looking girls
walking up and down the sidelines and everything, then generally what people do is 'I'd rather look over there than look out here.' So that's a
problem, distractions are."
More important, Gibbs wants to keep opponents guessing over his strategies as he returns to the sidelines for the first time in 12 years. By Gibbs'
reasoning, fewer eyes mean fewer leaks. Gibbs has been shocked by the media interest in his return to coaching. As many as 40 reporters, cameramen and
photographers attended practices during the first minicamp in March, a far cry from the smaller press corps that followed the team daily during his
first stint from 1981-92.
"We've got so many more people covering the team that if we opened practice, then it's kind of unmanageable," Gibbs said. "That's a lot of people out
Gibbs' desire for control might evoke comparisons to Dallas' Bill Parcells or New England's Bill Belichick, but his approach is not the same. Unlike
Parcells and Belichick, Gibbs freely allows access to nearly everyone in the organization -- from trainers to assistant coaches -- but he is adamant
about keeping a lid on anything that might be construed as strategy. Gibbs' level of concern is reflected in his language. With a straight face, he
earlier this year used the word "scary" to describe the location of the practice field at the team's old training camp in Carlisle, Pa., because he
felt it was not secure from peeping fans.
Gibbs' concerns also have to do with the fact that he is adjusting to a new calendar. He remembers coaching in the days when there was practically no
offseason program, when training camp was five weeks or six weeks long. Now players are in the building almost year-round, attending meetings and
less-formal practices. The weekend's minicamp will be the third this offseason, giving Gibbs a chance to install detailed strategies that 20 years ago
wouldn't have been on the chalkboard until July or August. It is yet another reason for him to decide to keep the practices under wraps. Gibbs said
the extra offseason work will allow him to start training camp as late as possible, thus keeping the players from wearing down too quickly once the
"I think they like that," Gibbs said. "Come in late, play and get on with it."