This is bed-time reading for rookies and other marginal Redskins: once upon a time on fields far, far away, most of the coaches and scouts judging your future weren't so hot themselves.

"I've been cut a lot," said the general manager, Bobby Beathard.

"I was never even good enough to get cut," joked the coach, Joe Gibbs, meaning that he was so ordinary as a player that he did not rate a tryout by a big-league pro team.

Beathard was dropped first by the Redskins in 1959, he being able to do a little at several positions but nothing spectacular at one. In morning practices, until Bill McPeak let him go, Beathard was a quarterback. In the afternoon, he was a defensive back.

"I was on crutches when the Chargers later cut me," he recalled. "I'd hurt my ankle returning punts. That was before agents, or anyone, thought about lawsuits, so I didn't question it. I just was excited about pro ball."

Beathard thought the route back to the major leagues (the AFL was alive and healthy at the time) might run through Canada, so he joined the Sarnia Golden Bears in Ontario.

For one game.

"You had to bring your own towels to practice," he said, adding that the coach's office was about as roomy as the soft-drink container near the Redskins' practice field.

With the Chargers, Beathard was about to run under a kickoff during an exhibition when he heard a familiar voice calling his name from the opposition's bench.

It was his head coach with Sarnia, Fran Rogel, who had broken free from that closet of an office with the Golden Bears but not necessarily to a golden life. He was an assistant with the New York Titans that afternoon.

"As much as anything in football, I was looking forward to running into the (Los Angeles) Coliseum (with the Chargers)," Beathard said, "because I'd gone there so often as a kid for so many big games.

"The night before I finally got the chance. My brother (Pete) played in a charity game that sold out. But for our game, for what I thought would be one of the biggest thrills of my life, there was hardly a soul in the stands."

Ironically, Beathard cut himself with the Vikings. He'd told Norm Van Brocklin his future seemed in another phase of football, but the coach urged him to wait until after the next exhibition.

But an obscure running back named Charlie Sears convinced Beathard to follow his instincts -- and join him on a train escape from the Vikings camp.

"About halfway there (to a flight home from Minneapolis), he gets second thoughts," Beathard said. "He decides to go back. I liked Van Brocklin, even worked with him as a scout later in Atlanta. He called me 'Little Man' all the time.

"But I'd made up my mind."

Several days later, Beathard realized his had been the more inspired decision. In a letter, Sears recounted his experience.

He had been properly humble on his return, and the usually explosive Van Brocklin had seemed surprisingly compassionate.

Come practice the next day, came the more commonly known Van Brocklin. He lined every player in camp -- several dozen in all -- at five-yard intervals, up and down the field, then gave a football to AWOL Charlie Sears and told him to run the gauntlet.

Sears survived, though barely. All but crawling, he approached Van Brocklin -- and was told to get his butt out of sight and never return. By staying on the run, Beathard avoided that additional humiliation.

"But all the experiences were worthwhile," he said, "because all along I kept meeting the right people in football. Evaluating myself as a player, I was just good enough to stay a while."

Everybody remembers the first cut the longest.

Redskins defensive coordinator Larry Peccatiello was dropped from the baseball team his sophomore year in high school during a meeting.

"Devastating," he said. "And embarrassing because I wasn't sure whether to stay on in the meeting or leave after the coach announced the squad."

He stayed.

The coach didn't.

"Never made it back the next year," said Peccatiello, glowing. "I got on the team under the new coach -- and starred."

The assistant head coach for defense, Richie Petitbon, also failed to make his high school baseball team, as a freshman.

"My football coach wanted me to go out for track, to build up my speed," Petitbon said, "so I got cut in baseball."

How's that? Had there been a conspiracy?

"No doubt in my mind," he said.

For Gibbs, the most cutting experience came not in football but boxing. As a youngster in the Golden Gloves preliminaries, he had visions "of being the next Muhammad Ali."

(Probably, he meant Rocky Marciano or Joe Louis, because Gibbs is two years older than Ali and even "The Greatest" wasn't much renowned beyond his own mind at age 11 or so.)

Gibbs continued: "Our camp went up against another camp, and when the first guy in my division in the other camp came up sick I was licking my chops. The No. 2 guy was skinny.

"But he hit me for three rounds." Here Gibbs affected a pose that suggested he still could see himself being rattled about the ring after all those years. "He hit me in the throat, in the stomach.

"He almost killed me.

"I remember my dad meeting the bus (after the meet) and me saying: 'It's over. My boxing career is over.' "