Coach Joe Gibbs said today that if the Washington Redskins lose Super Bowl XVII Sunday to Miami, they will not be able to blame the defeat on an emotional drain caused by last week's dramatic victory over Dallas.
Although there is lingering concern within the team that the Dallas triumph could make it difficult for the Redskins to be properly excited Sunday, Gibbs dismissed that notion today.
"We know what this is all about and if we get beat, we get beat by a better team," Gibbs said. "I feel like our players will give it their absolute best shot. We may not be good enough, I don't know, but we are going to lay it out there Sunday and hope we give you a great game to watch. We just hope the best team walks off the field a winner.
"When you get the opportunity, you have to grab it. Everybody realizes what the Super Bowl is worth. We will not use last week as an excuse, we will not say that we left it on the field last week."
Gibbs' statement came on the last day of full-scale activity before Sunday's game against Miami, which will start at 6:17 p.m. EST. Both teams had their final practice sessions, although both will conduct light workouts Saturday.
During the Redskins workout, fullback John Riggins felt a slight muscle twinge in his thigh and was held out of some drills. General Manager Bobby Beathard said the problem was minor and that Riggins' work was reduced as a precaution. Beathard said receiver Charlie Brown had experienced a similar twinge earlier in the week and was all right.
Gibbs confirmed that Riggins had missed a few plays during the practice but said that Riggins would have no problems playing on Sunday. Team physician Stanford Lavine also indicated there would be no problem. "I drove him back from practice. He's fine. There's nothing wrong. He will play," Lavine said.
Riggins was certainly in a jovial mood tonight. He showed up a party thrown by Redskins team owner Jack Kent Cooke wearing a black tie, top hat and white gloves and carrying a cane.
Gibbs was relaxed and talkative at a press conference this morning in Los Angeles. In order to avoid rush hour traffic, he came to the event in a league-supplied helicopter.
When the question about Dallas came up, Gibbs responded with what appeared to be a rough outline of a possible pregame pep talk to his players. He admitted that the Redskins "laid everything on the line and played our absolute best we could" to beat the Cowboys in the NFC title game at RFK Stadium. But he quickly added:
"Now I think our players turned around right after that and said, 'We'll have to see how we play in the Super Bowl.' We realized that this is an opportunity that comes along very, very seldom. You realize that the teams here last year, what happened to them this year?
"To get this opportunity, you have to make hundreds of plays and have things go right for you, like injuries. If you blow this opportunity and lose this game, most people won't even be able to recall who Miami beat.
"That's a fact. It's not right, but that's a fact. I think the only ones who know that Washington got beat here in 1972 are Washington Redskin fans.
"We know that. If we don't do it, we are going to have to go back and rebuild and make all those plays and have things go right so we can get here again. And what are the odds of that happening every year?"
Both Gibbs and Miami's Don Shula have been struggling all week to get their teams prepared, in lieu of a short-work period and the myriad of off-field distractions. But both said today they were happy with the status of their squads going into the weekend.
"You struggle to get everything done that you want to get done," Shula said. "The weather has been a problem, too, it's forced us to rearrange things somewhat as far as our practice schedule goes. But over the next hours, we should be able to get our players' attention fully on the game."
Gibbs has kept his players on the practice field longer than usual every workout this week. He said the practices have been "good and hard and the players are in a good frame of mind."
He said he and the team has enjoyed the week "although at the first press conference, I couldn't believe all the interest and everything in this game. That's when everyone realized they were in the Super Bowl."
It has rained hard on and off all week, and the forecast calls for more rain Saturday. But the long-range forecast does not include rain on game day. The field at the Rose Bowl is covered with a tarp.
The Redskins could benefit from increased excitement around the team hotel today. Players' wives flew in today and the hotel is packed with noisy, spirited Washington fans. A local high school band played "Hail to the Redskins."
"I think things worked out the way they were supposed to, I really believe we were supposed to play Dallas in the NFC championship game and that we were supposed to be here in this game, against Miami," Gibbs said, answering a question regarding the Redskins being a team of destiny. "But I don't know who will win . . . All I know is, this is the chance I've always wanted, this is what I've worked so hard for so many years, to have a chance at the gold ring. There may be some bad things about our business, but there are a lot more good things, and this is the best."
Asked if the game comes down to a matchup between the two head coaches, Gibbs said: "I hope not. If so, we're in a mismatch. He's been there before; I'm in uncharted grounds for myself" . . Redskins running back Joe Washington still has knee problems, although he feels better as the week has progressed. Center Jeff Bostic hurt a finger on his right hand, but will play.