Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs has had time to think things over. The passions within him, stirred by troubled times, have subsided into reason.
It has been one week since federal agents put handcuffs on Redskins' safety Tony Peters, then took him away from training camp, charging him with cocaine trafficking.
Today, an Alexandria district court indicted Peters on nine counts--including conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute cocaine, distribution of cocaine and criminal use of a telephone for a cocaine transaction. If found guilty on all the charges, Peters faces a maximum penalty, if all sentences run consecutively rather than concurrently, of 114 years in prison and a $215,000 fine.
Meanwhile, reserve running back Clarence Harmon awaits a trial date in Texarkana, Tex., on a third-degree felony charge of cocaine possession. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Gibbs views his team as his family. He said today that he has prayed for both Peters and Harmon and for their families.
"The first thing is, we have to wait to see what the eventual outcome will be with Tony. Same with Clarence," Gibbs said. "Really, I don't know everything that has happened. Neither guy has been proven guilty or even been taken to court yet."
Gibbs last spoke with Peters on the night of the arrest. "I tried to get across my feelings to him. I don't know if I got to put it in the terms I wanted. Obviously, things were so hectic," Gibbs said.
Gibbs views the cases of Peters and Harmon in two different ways: he is part soothing father, part angry uncle; he is part paternalistic, part realistic. Gibbs is cautious not to imply guilt until all the facts become known, yet says, "If someone breaks the law, there will be a price to pay.
"It's an initial feeling of shock, then hurt, then mixed feelings. You feel for the person it happened to and for his family," Gibbs said today. "The toughest thing that happens with something like this is that it reflects on everyone else in the group. I think you're concerned about your image as a team. We've had guys on this team work so hard to be a part of all those things in our society, good things.
"We're examples to so many young people. For almost everybody on our team, somewhere, some small kid has got their picture on the wall. They think that he is the greatest thing that ever happened. To me, that's the thing that has to be protected. We've been given a tremendous amount of respect in our society. Sure, winning the Super Bowl has added to it.
"Whether we like it or not, we're the image that many people want to be like. Those are the people we can't let down. We cannot betray them. We just can't do that."
Asked if he was concerned that Peters may have been supplying cocaine to other Redskins, he said, "I'm not worried about that. I'm betting on our 49 guys," he said.
Over and over, Gibbs recites his trust in his players. "I've never worried much about (cocaine-related problems) because I know our guys, I trust our guys. We want great overachievers and great people on our team, guys like (linebacker) Pete Cronan and (running back) Nick Giaquinto."
But he adds, "Yes, I was shocked because Tony (Peters) had been one of the guys I listed who this wasn't going to happen to.
"I also am aware of the fact that these things do happen in society. We do know that in any group of 49 players, somebody will have problems. Our job is, first of all, to try to prevent them. Then, if they happen, to support our player and try to help him."
The Redskins offered help to both Peters and Harmon, in the form of the opportunity to take a paid leave of absence from the team to concentrate on preparing their legal defense. Peters elected to take the paid leave of absence. Harmon, who was arrested during a police raid in Texarkana in March, elected not to accept the paid leave of absence.
"We are a family," said Gibbs. "We're proud for what we stand for. We worked hard to get where we are. We've put a lot of hours and a lot of sweat to attain a position of being a champion. We've got a lot invested in that and we don't want to see that hurt.
"After a bad thing happens, you have to press on and put things back together . . . The Redskins' image is very important and (a tarnished image) is certainly one of the things we are going to have to overcome in this. But I think the strength of our team is in our players and in their character.
"If some player is hiding something from us, I'm not interested in having them with us," Gibbs said. Then, with a look as serious as the charges confronting two of his football children, he added, "I only want the legitimate product, anyway."