If someone's got a problem at Redskin Park this week and wants to see Coach Joe Gibbs about it, he'd better take a number.
Today, for instance, Gibbs must cut seven players from his roster to reach the mandatory 55-man player limit. These won't be easy decisions, because some former replacement players are likely to be kept over veterans such as quarterback Babe Laufenberg and tight ends Glenn Dennison and Cliff Benson, whose jobs are definitely on the line.
Gibbs also said he wants to "rethink everything" on his special teams, which disappointed him Sunday. In addition, his two top running backs still are injured and not likely to be able to play much more this week than they did in the Redskins' 17-16 win over the New York Jets. The way the Redskins won that game, coming back for 10 points in the final six minutes, also doesn't sit well with the coach, who would rather get an early lead and keep the ball on the ground in the final minutes. "I don't want to live like that," Gibbs said yesterday at Redskin Park.
As of 4 p.m. today, the Redskins must go from 63 active players to 55. One, reserve linebacker Anthony Copeland, had knee surgery yesterday and will be placed on injured reserve. The other seven must be released. There probably will be a mix of ex-replacement players and little-used regulars cut today. Gibbs said he thinks "there will be quite a few" replacement players still on the roster after the cuts are made.
"It's crunch time," Gibbs said, adding that decisions are made more difficult because emotions still are running high between union and nonunion players. "No matter what we do, we'll go with the guys who are the best players. We may let a guy go because someone else can use them right now, because they have a better shot of playing someplace else."
It was clear last week in practice that replacement standouts such as wide receiver Anthony Allen, running back Lionel Vital and offensive linemen Eric Coyle, Darrick Brilz and Mark Carlson were not going to get much playing time because of depth at those positions. It's uncertain what will happen to them, but the problem for replacements trying to make the Redskins roster is that the team is set at most starting and backup positions.
Gibbs is expected to keep H-back Craig McEwen and 270-pound tight end Joe Caravello, whose sprained lower back still is "real sore," Gibbs said, adding the Redskins are hoping not to have to put him on injured reserve. When he gets healthy, Caravello will back up starting blocking tight end Don Warren.
Because special teams are such a concern, Gibbs was asked if flashy ex-replacement returner Derrick Shepard might be used this week.
"We'll look at anybody who can help us cover a kick, make a tackle, whatever," Gibbs said. Shepard, who had a 73-yard punt return in the first replacement game, averaged 24.3 yards on six punt returns. Ted Wilson, another ex-replacement, averaged 17.9 yards on eight punt returns. Eric Yarber, the team's first-string punt returner, is averaging 6.3 yards on 15 returns.
Gibbs said Yarber still is No. 1 on the depth chart, but he said Shepard could be used as a backup on punt returns, and on kickoff returns behind Keith Griffin.
The Redskins' special teams had problems Sunday. They were called for four penalties; punter Steve Cox averaged just 32.4 yards on his seven punts; Yarber had only 16 yards on seven punt returns; and Griffin and Terry Orr averaged only 13 yards on three kickoff returns.
"My biggest concern is getting the special teams squared," Gibbs said. "We're going to rethink everything. We'll spend one day a week, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, brushing up on a different aspect of our teams. It's kind of like going back to camp again."
Although his team stands 5-1, two games ahead of everyone else in the NFC East and four games up on the New York Giants, Gibbs is troubled by the condition of his running backs. George Rogers suffered a sprained left big toe Aug. 4; it still hasn't healed. Kelvin Bryant has been plagued by a variety of injuries in his two-year Redskin career; the latest is a right hamstring pull. Gibbs hopes they both will be healthy enough to play against Buffalo this Sunday, but he's not counting on it and expects Griffin and rookie Timmy Smith to bear the brunt of the rushing in practice.
Gibbs used the words "frustrating," "handcuffed" and "driving you up a wall" to describe his feelings about Bryant's problems.
"His body is not letting him play," Gibbs said.
As for Rogers, Gibbs said he is waiting for him to "start chomping at the bit." Said Gibbs: "I haven't felt that yet from George."
Gibbs said he doesn't want to risk further injury to Rogers' toe. "If he got hurt again, it's a good chance we're talking about the year."
Another problem for Gibbs is that the Bills play on artificial turf, hardly a soothing surface for Rogers.
Not surprisingly, the Redskins were quite pleased with their defense, which had seven sacks and allowed the Jets only 200 total yards. "They did just about everything you could ask of a defense," Gibbs said.
Defensive tackle Dave Butz was back in Arlington Hosptial yesterday, being treated for dehydration caused by an intestinal virus. Butz, who had a key sack of Ken O'Brien late in the game, was expected to be in the hospital until today, at least.
Speaking of injuries, Gibbs said tackle Mark May, who dislocated his right little finger after also returning from a knee injury, had blood in his urine after being kicked in the ribs during the game.
May is expected to be able to practice Wednesday.