One of the joys of living in the Washington area is the annual convening of the Redskins each July for training camp. It's the time of the year, before the first practice, when everything looks rosy. The late Vince Lombardi and George Allen brought hope, as well as their playbooks, to town more than three decades ago, but Joe Gibbs delivered Super Bowl trophies -- three of them.
These trophies used to sit in a case in the front of the late Duke Zeibert's restaurant, on Connecticut and L streets, because that was late owner Jack Kent Cooke's favorite lunch hangout. And if you notice the word late being used often in these first two paragraphs, it's because a number of key people associated with the Redskins' success from 1969 to 1992 have passed away.
The three Super Bowl trophies now reside in the lobby of Redskins Park in Ashburn, and the man most responsible for securing them -- Joe Gibbs -- has returned after 11 years to see if he can get another.
He knows it won't be easy.
The Hogs have scattered; Theismann talks for a living, Riggo acts; Doug Williams is a personnel executive for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Mark Rypien is out of the NFL, as are Monte Coleman and Gerald Riggs; Art Monk and Gary Clark won't be making key catches; Mark Murphy is athletic director at Northwestern; Dexter Manley had problems; Donnie Warren no longer blocks, Charles Mann does commercials and Rick "Doc" Walker is on radio and television 24/7.
Even Darrell Green stopped playing after the 2002 season.
Sonny and Sam still do the play-by-play, but not Frank. The GMs who secured the players for Gibbs are gone -- Bobby Beathard into a semi-retirement consultant's job with the Atlanta Falcons and Charley Casserly to Houston. Gibbs's new boss, Daniel Snyder, was 15 when Beathard brought Gibbs to town 23 years ago. Snyder purchased the team and FedEx Field (now 90,000 seats, getting closer to 100,000) from the Cooke estate in 1999 for $800 million after the Squire created a cockamamie will that makes my three sons shudder.
Since Gibbs left after the 1992 season, the Redskins have had four coaches -- Richie Petitbon (1993), Norv Turner (1993-2000), Marty Schottenheimer (2001) and Steve Spurrier (2002-03), plus Terry Robiskie's three-game shot at the end of 2000. Only once in those 11 years, 1999 under Turner, did the Redskins make the playoffs.
Now Gibbs will begin preparing the Redskins to play in the first preseason game, Aug. 9 against Denver at the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, where his players can view a bust of their coach, who was enshrined eight years ago.
I don't know how Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey will do, or if Clinton Portis is worth all that money, or whether Marcus Washington and LaVar Arrington can make some plays, or if Joe Bugel can recreate the Hogs, or if anyone can rush the passer, or if Sean Taylor is ready or if Brandon Noble's knee is healthy. But this will be fun -- and no matter what happens, the bust of Gibbs will stay in Canton forever.
For Dolphins, 'the Truth' Hurts
Are we supposed to feel sorry for Ricky Williams, who at 27 left the Miami Dolphins high and dry recently with his sudden retirement? Williams is a terrific running back around whom the Dolphins built their offense.
"Everything I'm doing in my life is about finding the truth," Williams told Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald. "Football isn't part of the truth for me anymore."
Well, it turns out one reason Williams might have retired at such an early age is that he tested positive for marijuana a third time and would have faced a four-game suspension had he not quit in search of the truth.
"I failed a drug test because I was ready to quit football," Williams told the Associated Press on Friday.
Williams isn't the first great running back to retire at an early age. Hall of Famers Jim Brown and Barry Sanders handed in their pads with plenty left in their tanks, because they had had enough of the game. Brown went on to a career in film and became an activist. Sanders simply grew weary of the game.
Former Redskins running back Larry Brown, the NFL's most valuable player in 1972, quit before he was 30 because of knee injuries and other ailments. He had taken a tremendous pounding, as the key man in George Allen's offense. "I did what I had to do to help the team for as long as I could; then when I couldn't do it anymore, I stopped playing," Brown once told me.
I admired Larry Brown as a player and person, and was in awe of Jim Brown and Sanders for their play on the field. Williams, however, appears to be someone who wasn't quite sure if he wanted to be a ballplayer or just someone seeking to do his own thing. What we have here, in my view, is someone who made enough money to do his own thing and showed no responsibility to the organization that provided him that opportunity.
If No Baseball, How Can We Support Angelos?
Major League Baseball officials had pointed toward the Aug. 18-19 owners' meeting in Philadelphia as the target date for announcing the relocation of the Montreal Expos for 2005. However, as ownership groups in the District and Northern Virginia have seen before, MLB has been quick to postpone such targets, and appears to be stalling again, with sources saying MLB has pushed any decision back to late August or early September.
Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos remains steadfastly opposed to the Expos moving to Washington or Northern Virginia and is probably the main reason Commissioner Bud Selig hasn't announced a decision yet. I wonder how many millions of dollars MLB will have to give Angelos to get him to release his greedy and unethical broadcast grip on our town?
If Angelos succeeds in keeping the Expos from us -- and we hope Selig doesn't cave to strong-arm tactics -- how can Angelos expect support from us for his baseball team, or his recent Rosecroft harness racing acquisition? Does he really believe he'll be supported in our town in any business endeavor, if he wins this petty fight? Does he think so little of our character?
Modell Steps Back, but Not Away From NFL
For the first time since 1961 when he bought the Cleveland Browns, Art Modell will not be running an NFL team. Modell sold the Baltimore Ravens several years ago to Marylander Steve Bisciotti, who takes over this season. Nevertheless, Modell, who retained a small percentage in the Ravens, will still be at training camp.
"The culture of the league has changed, from the owners down to the players," Modell said in a telephone interview this week. "It's all about 'give me this, give me that. ' "
Nevertheless, Modell is happy to be around, and the new owner showed his class by allowing Modell to remain.
Have an opinion or comment, reach me at Talkback@washpost.com.