On the eve of Joe Gibbs' first training-camp practice as Redskin head coach, the two men responsible for bringing him to Washington gave him high marks for the changes he has made in the club since he replaced Jack Pardee six months ago.
"I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I don't know if I could say that before," said General Manager Bobby Beathard.
"I have no regrets over anything that has happened -- none, none, none," Owner Jack Kent Cooke said. "To date, it has been all pluses and I can't think of a minus. We are making progress, which should bear fruit for 1981."
Cooke said his outlook has not been dimmed by the holdout by No. 1 draft choice Mark May, which became official yesterday when May did not report to camp by the 6 p.m. deadline.
That's because I believe he will be signed," said Cooke, who talked yesterday with Ralph Cindrich, May's attorney, evidently to inform him that Beathard was in charge of the negotiations. No progress was reported by either side in the talks, which Cindrich has said are being impeded by Beathard.
All other players scheduled to show up for this phase of camp reported on time. Beathard expected to sign center Russ Grimm, the No. 3 choice, to a contract last night.
Gibbs remains unhappy about May's absence. He believes that the longer May misses camp, the harder it will be for him to contribute this season. But May and Cindrich both believe the longer he stays out, the more pressure his holdout will bring on the Redskins because the club wouldn't want to blow a chance to sign a No. 1 choice.
Gibbs will open practice formally today at 4 p.m. He will work mainly with rookies and selected veterans until July 24, when the remainder of the squad will report.
Neither Cooke nor Beathard would make predictions about the upcoming season. Last year Cooke used the team press guide to predict a Super Bowl appearance for his club. This year, he has modified that forecast to a Super Bowl "some day." And under favorite coaches, he has replaced Pardee with Gibbs and the rest of the current Redskin staff. Beathard remains among the top general managers.
Cooke said yesterday all he wants Gibbs to do this season "is to make steady progress, which I think he will. We'll leave the five-year rebuilding programs to the Russians. And I'll be the judge of what constitutes steady progress. But let me say I'm very happy with Joe Gibbs and the rest of the coaching staff."
Beathard, whose differences with Pardee led to the latter's firing, said he thought a lot had been accomplished since last season.
"We have better players and more potential than last season," Beathard said. "We've never had this many young players, especially at one position (offensive line). But a lot will depend on how well those kids develop. Most of them haven't proven they can start yet. When you look back and think about the frustrations and then look at where we are now, things have really changed."
Beathard obviously is much more comfortable with Gibbs than he was with Pardee. He also now has a more receptive ear in the coach's office regarding his plans and ideas about players and team development. Gibbs and Beathard are friends off the field. Pardee and Beathard had a cooler relationship.
"I don't have any regrets about anything that we've done as far as trades or draft picks since January," Beathard said. "I know this is when I start getting judged, but I'm sincerely not worried. You make decisions and then you have to live with them. You can't second-guess yourself."
Fifty-eight Redskins made yesterday's 6 p.m. reporting deadline, including running back Terry Metcalf, who was not scheduled to show up until next week. . . Tight end Phil DuBois, who left the final minicamp in June and had not been expected for training camp, has changed his mind and will report. . . Gibbs will hold two-a-day workouts most days, with practices starting at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Camp will last until Aug. 21.