If calamity breeds misery, Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs may need a wheelbarrow to cart his lower lip around.
What coach wouldn't have cause for worry? Quarterback Joe Theismann, who completed only three of 12 passes for 32 yards in the 38-7 preseason loss to Miami Friday night, did not show up at Redskin Park yesterday for the team's first practice since then, adding a development that would make the absence of regulars Tony Peters, Jeris White and Mat Mendenhall seem minor.
Gibbs, when asked after practice why Theismann wasn't there, said he didn't know. As it turned out, Gibbs had given Theismann the day off, about a month ago. General Manager Bobby Beathard, who was not at the park yesterday, cleared up the matter when contacted last night, saying Theismann had been given permission a month ago to miss the practice in order to take care of some unspecified out-of-town business.
Beathard said last night: "I think he had to do something out of state today. It was something that we knew about, that he told us about a long time ago. He was excused for this, I think, as long as a month ago."
About two hours after practice, Gibbs recalled giving Theismann the day off. "I think he asked me a number of weeks ago about this, and it didn't register (today)," Gibbs said. "After practice, the guys asked me about it, and I was dumbfounded."
Gibbs said he later talked to several players close to Theismann and to some assistant coaches who recalled that they thought Gibbs had given Theismann they day off so he could make a television commercial. "With everything that has happened in the last five days (camp breaking, Mendenhall leaving and the Dolphins game), I'd forgotten about it.
"You know how forgetful I am," he said.
Theismann could not be reached for comment.
In another development, the Redskins cut eight players yesterday, the most noteworthy of whom was cornerback LeCharls McDaniel. With White holding out, he was the starter at left cornerback the first two preseason games.
But Darrell Green, the team's No. 1 draft choice, replaced him against the Dolphins.
Also released were cornerback Charles Armstead, tight end Milton Baker, safety Tom Deery, defensive tackles Terry Monroe and Leon Evans, running back Marcus Gilbert and wide receiver Stanley Washington. The Redskins must cut two more players by 4 p.m. Tuesday to reach this week's roster limit of 60.
At yesterday's practice, the first at Redskin Park since breaking camp at Carlisle, backup quarterbacks Tom Owen, Bob Holly and Babe Laufenberg, who played the entire second half against the Dolphins, replaced Theismann and rotated with the first unit.
Except for the offensive line, which ran through a series of Joe Bugel's gut-and-agility drills in the end zone, the offense worked primarily on the passing game against the defensive secondary. The seven-on-seven drill kept the linebacker corps and the secondary working on pass defense against the offensive backfield and receivers 40 minutes after the linemen had left the field.
Curtis Jordan, heretofore a free safety, replaced Ken Coffey at strong safety, as Gibbs had said he was contemplating.
"Curtis had one of the better games of anybody on the team this week," Gibbs said. "He's been looking good all along and we can really use his stability back there. He and (Mark) Murphy are very strong players and we wanted to get them both into the starting lineup."
Coffey, who was beaten repeatedly by Jimmy Cefalo and Duriel Harris against Miami, said Richie Petitbon, coach of the defense, met with him before practice.
"Richie said he just didn't think I'd be ready to start once the season got here," Coffey said. "With Darrell (Green) having to start, there would be so many young guys in the secondary. I guess Richie just didn't want me going into the position if I wasn't ready yet."
"I don't think it's anything I won't be able to overcome in time," Coffey said. "I'm going to continue to believe in myself. You've got to have faith. Things'll work out and I'll work hard to win my job back."
Jordan said he, too, talked to Coffey before practice and told him not to get down. "I told him he's young and that he's got his whole career ahead of him. He shouldn't worry about it. He knows he's a little green back there and just needs the experience. The secondary's a tough world to be thrown into. It really wasn't his ability or anything like that. He just hasn't got the experience yet."
Jordan, a seven-year veteran claimed on waivers two years ago from Tampa Bay, said: "I can't tell you how excited I am. I never could get used to not starting. That was a hard pill to swallow."
Green said: "Moving Curtis in front of Kenny didn't really affect us any, not yet anyway. We all worked together in camp and it wasn't a very big adjustment. I'm just glad the Dolphins are behind us and we can move on."
Gibbs said he talked to Mendenhall, who left camp after the preseason gameinst Cincinnati, on the telephone "for a real long time" Saturday night.
"When he decides to return is realaid. "He's got some personal problems to work through and that's why he went home."
Beathard said that Mendtorney. "They are going to tell us something tomorrow (Monday)," Beathard said.
Beathard also said he stillndenhall left camp last week.
Gibbs said Mark May, who partially tore the right triceps muscle two weeks agreinjured it against Miami, "is still real sore. All he can really do now is work to get well."
Clint Didie ankle against Miami, dressed out without shoulder pads but did not participate in any drills.