SAN DIEGO, JAN. 26 -- In an unprecedented move, players, coaches and staff members from the Washington Redskins and Denver Broncos will worship together in a joint chapel service Saturday night before the Super Bowl.
Washington Coach Joe Gibbs and Denver Coach Dan Reeves, both very religious men, decided to hold the voluntary service from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Bahia Resort Hotel, across the street from the Hyatt Islandia, the Redskins' headquarters. The Broncos said they will send buses to the service.
Gibbs and Reeves downplayed the joint service, reported in today's New York Times, in news conferences at Jack Murphy Stadium this morning. But a few players said they didn't think much of the idea.
While some Redskins declined comment, offensive tackle Mark May simply said he would not go.
"If that's what they want to do and that's how they want to handle it, that's fine," May said. "I wouldn't do it. As far as I'm concerned, Sunday's going to be a war and they're the enemy. Why collaborate with them beforehand?
"That's the way that I treat it, down in the trenches. Most of the guys you'll probably see there will be wide receivers and cornerbacks anyway. If they want to do it, that's fine with me. That's not for me to agree or disagree. It's for me to stay away or for me to go. I wouldn't do it."
In another development, Gibbs commented again on his decision to change jersey numbers and use 12- and 13-player alignments at practice, saying he was concerned that people might be spying on his team.
"There might be people watching who bet on the games," he said. "There might be friends of somebody else on the other staff. You've got a hundred different scenarios. That's the major concern of something like this. All it is is a couple simple little things we do to try and make sure we're being careful. We plan on doing it all week."
The Redskins are practicing under tight security at the University of San Diego, but the field is sunk into the ground and outsiders can watch from afar.
Gibbs said using 12 or 13 players in practice formations does not cause problems in the team's preparation. He also doesn't need the right jersey numbers to tell his players apart, he said.
"I can tell the way a guy wiggles," Gibbs said. "I don't really know the numbers that well, but I can tell a player by the way he runs and the way he stands."
At team picture day, wide receiver Art Monk said he is not yet 100 percent, as Gibbs said Monday, and is "not sure yet" what his role will be in the Super Bowl.
"I feel good, but I won't know until I get out there," said Monk, who injured a ligament in his right knee Dec. 6 and has been pronounced fit and ready to play as usual by Gibbs and offensive assistant Dan Henning.
Meanwhile, kicker Ali Haji-Sheikh said he doesn't mind that Jess Atkinson still is kicking with him in practice. Gibbs said Haji-Sheikh is his kicker for the Super Bowl, "until I change my mind."
"I don't think it's going to affect me one way or the other," Haji-Sheikh said. "In this league, you're under the gun every week, even if you're going well. All it takes is a phone call to bring someone else in."
Haji-Sheikh, who missed two of three field goal attempts in the NFC championship game, said he thinks he has kicked "well enough" to keep the job.
The Redskins hold chapel services before every game, and Gibbs said this time he thought it would be a good idea to include his opponent. The teams will sit on opposite sides of an aisle, he said. This is believed to be the first time NFL teams ever have worshipped together the night before a game.
"All the NFL teams have chapel services," Gibbs said. "Coach Reeves and I had talked and said if we were fortunate enough to get here, we'd do one together. We can combine resources and get the best people we could to sing and entertain and then speak. We think we've done that. I think it's going to be exciting. I'm excited about that."
Gibbs said he "definitely did not think" the service would affect the way the teams played against one another in the Super Bowl Sunday at 3 p.m.
"Both teams want this bad," he said of the game.
While members of both organizations reportedly are not pleased with the idea, Gibbs said the league has not held any discussions with him on the matter.
"I don't think we've been involved with the league at all," Gibbs said. "We won't sit together or anything. We'll just be joint."
"Whether any players are there or not, it's up to them," Reeves said. "It's between Joe and I."
Denver offensive tackle Dave Studdard said he "wouldn't feel uncomfortable" going to a service.
"It doesn't matter to me," he said.
Redskins center Jeff Bostic said he wouldn't go, which is his usual practice.
"It's no problem," he said. "This Super Bowl is unusual in that we don't really have the bad blood between us like we did with the Raiders."
Running back George Rogers said he would go. "I know some of the guys on their team," he said. "It's not like we're going to be real angry with each other. It's something that we can share together."
Linebacker Mel Kaufman said he planned to attend, and wondered about the hoopla.
"What do people think we are, a bunch of barbarians? It's a good thing. Believe me, it's not going to be any less aggressive the next day. We're going to pray with them the night before, but we're going to go out there and knock them down the day after. I don't see any problem at all," Kaufman said.
Defensive end Charles Mann said he thought the idea was "great.
"This is a football game. We're not supposed to be mad at the team. When we go out on Sunday, we'll play to the best of our ability. That doesn't mean we can't be friends with the guys on their team. That doesn't mean we can't have friends on their team. The love for Christ Coach Gibbs and Coach Reeves have transcends football."
Said Mann: "I'm going to be right there, in the front row, watching it and enjoying it."
Defensive end Dexter Manley isn't going, but he said he doesn't care what his teammates do. "I don't think I'll be going. I haven't gone all year. Why should I go now? I think it's good, if they want to do it. When you worship in the same manner, it's good."
Guard R.C. Thielemann said he also didn't mind, but would not attend.
"Once you get out there on Sunday, it's going to be all business," he said. "You've come this far. I don't think praying to God is going to cease the violence that's going to happen on Sunday. I pray for strength, I don't pray for victories. God gave you talent. You've got to use it. He's not going to give you wins.
"To each his own."