Despite a four-hour power failure and a few inches of snow, it almost was business as usual for the Redskins yesterday.
"It looks like we're in the playoffs, practicing this time of the year," General Manager Bobby Beathard said, facetiously, in the eerie setting of so much greenery still surrounding Redskin Park and of steam rising off the AstroTurf field, producing a fog.
Someone filled Jean Fugett's helmet with snow and slush as it lay on a snowbank piled up by a tractor that cleared the carpet. Fugett watched but didn't praticipate in practice because of a badly bruised knee. He is listed as doubtful in Sunday's game. He was huddled in a burgundy windbreaker. Most of the players wore thermal underwear.
For Coach Jack Pardee and Bob Bowser, his special assistant, the weather was nothing compared to Chicago Bear practices at Lake Forest, Ill.
"Summertime," said Pardee after the normal two-hour workout.
"The guys in Chicago wouldn't have worn thermals on a day like this," said Bowser. "We practiced there when it was 25 to 30 below. One time the city had scrapers on one end of the field while we were doing seven-on-seven drills, so we could get 11 on 11 in there after we finished the seven on sevens."
The snow stopped falling just before the team went on the field.
"It worked out pretty good today, a little change of pace, a different routine," Pardee said. "We got everything done we had planned."
Of course there were some impromptu changes when power at Redskin Park and much of the Fairfax County went off about 10:40 a.m. a few minutes before team meetings were scheduled.
Some of the meeting rooms have no windows, especially these for the offense. So the defensive backs went to Beatherard's office, the defensive line into Bower's and the linebackers into Pardee's. The offense met en masse in the defensive meeting room, which has no windows.
Of course, there were no films to watch, only blackboard work.
Trainer Bubba Tyer had to pull out emergency lanterns to finish taping the players. The only outside light source to the locker room is the door from the practice field. So it was rather cold when the players put on their pads and thermals to go on the field.
Pardee had said Tuesday he might close practice at least one day this week in order to install some defensive wrinkles that the media may consider personnel changes, but which he considers strategy.
However, practice was open yesterday, although more time is spent on offense Wednesday than defense. Today traditionally is the heavy defensive day.
Middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz, safety Tony Peters and defensive tackle Paul Smith worked a number of plays with the first unit. Pardee said Monday he intends to use more players defensively and, he said he intends to give rookie Monte Coleman and veteran Dallas Hickman some work at linebacker with the first unit in today's practice.
In previous games, strong safety Ken Houston has been positioned as a linebacker and used on numerous blitzes in order to support Washington's weak running defense. Speculation about a closed practice centered on how Pardee will use Houston Sunday against a balanced Cleveland attack that leads the NFL in total offense.
Pardee obviously will not tell how he will deploy Houston -- if the Redskins come up with another "gimmick" defense -- but yesterday he explained why he uses Houston in these situations. It basically comes down to Houston's abilities and Pardee's attempts to keep the defense as simple as possible.
"For us right now we're using Ken's abilities as best we can," the coach said. "To put him in one spot and never do anything with him, we wouldn't be getting the most out of the things he can do.
"So with our teaching, it's the easiest thing we can do. A lot of our adjustments can come off one guy. If they move one guy, you can move seven. We can move one and handle just about anything that has to be handled. Our system is designed to keep it as simple as possible and everybody be able to play hard.
"He can make the adjustments that have to be made and it doesn't affect 10 other people on the field."
As a reward for their diligent practice, Pardee had hot chocolate and beef bouillon catered to the players afterward . . . Former Redskin Coach George Allen will make his seasonal debut in the television booth for a Washington game Sunday.