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Fans Get an Audience With Redskins' Coach

Gibbs's Appearance Delights FedEx Faithful

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page E11

For Washington Redskins fans, the first twist of the NFL draft occurred at 11:39 a.m., and had nothing to do with the anticipation that the club would leap from the No. 9 to the No. 1 pick. A blue-and-beige helicopter landed several yards from the south entrance at FedEx Field. Soon, Coach Joe Gibbs jogged out of the tunnel and onto the field amid a roar from the several hundred fans surprised by the sight. Trailed by Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, and Joe Bugel, assistant head coach-offense, Gibbs hustled to a makeshift podium near the 20-yard line.

Gibbs was originally scheduled to arrive at the team's fifth annual draft party between 3 and 3:30 p.m. after Washington made the ninth overall pick. But because Washington also had the 25th pick -- and with it a myriad of possibilities -- Gibbs altered his itinerary. He briefly addressed fans, then took a few questions before returning to Redskins Park on the helicopter at 11:50 a.m.

George Brown, clockwise from bottom left, his brother Darnell Brown, friend Tyrone Jackson, and the Browns' father, George Brown Sr. react to Carlos Rogers's selection. The loudest sound from fans at FedEx Field was a smattering of boos. (Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

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"There's a lot going on right now. I think my heart is right here," Gibbs told fans, raising his right hand near his face.

By Washington's first choice, the number of spectators had increased to around 11,000, according to FedEx officials. They watched eagerly from the field, in the stands and on the Joe Gibbs Club Level. But the reaction was a bit anticlimactic when Commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced cornerback Carlos Rogers of Auburn. The loudest sound was a smattering of boos.

"I didn't hear much about him [Rogers] in all the coverage before the draft," said Thomas May, 55, who sat in the upper-deck seats with his daughter, Grace, a Redskins junior cheerleader, and Jordan Clark, 9, a neighbor who was wearing the No. 80 replica jersey of departed wide receiver Laveranues Coles. "But in the highlights, he looks like a pretty good player. He did some pretty good things. He'll add value -- we lost [Fred] Smoot. So I think he's a good pick."

May, who is a system engineer for Northrop Grumman, noted that Rogers won the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back and beat out more celebrated prospects such as Adam Jones of West Virginia and Antrel Rolle of Miami.

But Kedar Ras, a 39-year-old mortgage consultant, was flabbergasted that Washington didn't select wide receiver Mike Williams.

"We need offense -- offense wins the games," said Ras, who had been buying a $3 beer -- which goes for $7 on game days -- just as the Redskins chose Rogers. "They should have got the wide receiver [Williams]. The offense needs more power. The defense is solid."

Ras shook his head as the Detroit Lions chose Williams next.

Earlier in the day, Gibbs had taken questions in a session broadcast live on two big screens behind each end zone.

The toughest question concerned reports that the Redskins had targeted Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell at No. 25. The fan wanted to know if Patrick Ramsey was definitely the starter. When Gibbs responded affirmatively, the crowd roared in approval.

As Gibbs spoke, Rob Seifert and his 17-year-old son Mike, listened raptly. The two had left their Virginia Beach home at 7 a.m. for the 3 1/2-hour drive to FedEx Field. Williams signed a football, and Bugel posed for pictures with Mike.

"Everybody was thinking he [Gibbs] would be here after 2 o'clock," Seifert said, grinning. "You don't get a chance like this every day. It's the one time you can come here and be on the field."

Derrick Jordan, 25 -- wearing a LaVar Arrington jersey -- and friend Simorrah Brown, 24, were among the fans lucky enough to be at the stadium early for Gibbs's appearance. The two merely wanted to avoid traffic, and got to FedEx Field only a few minutes before Gibbs.

"I was shocked. I got the whole thing on tape," Jordan, an administrative assistant, said. "This is the first time I've ever seen any of the coaches up close, in person. You don't get this every day."

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