Coach Joe Gibbs looked determined and focused after the Washington Redskins' final practice yesterday in preparation for their season-opening game tomorrow against Tampa Bay at Fed Ex Field. Gibbs said he will continue to install aspects of the game plan through today and meet with players as he gets ready to coach his first regular season game since 1992.
Gibbs has said all week that he feels nervous and anxious about tomorrow's game and is worried about the outcome despite spending the last eight months getting ready for it. He has gradually adopted a more stern demeanor as the game has approached, laughing much less than during the summer and seeming more consumed with his preparations.
"Everybody can kind of imagine the emotions you have," Gibbs said. "And we'll see what happens. . . . It's been a long time, so I'd probably settle for another eight months, but I think we're going to have to play."
Gibbs worked the players hard on Wednesday and Thursday and put them through a less-strenuous practice yesterday. Several players have said they felt tired -- with months of practices behind them -- and Gibbs said he will rest them until game time. He is following the type of schedule he set during his initial tenure, one that resulted in three Super Bowl wins.
"We went through a normal process trying to get ready," Gibbs said.
"In an NFL work week," starting quarterback Mark Brunell said, "you're going to be tired toward the end of the week. . . . I don't think that's any different across the league."
While the physical preparation is over for the players, the mental work will continue. "It's pretty much a mental day, which is good," Brunell said. "It's also a rest day, which is good. We're pretty close here." The team will check into a hotel tonight to be closer to FedEx Field and continue to go over the game plan there.
"From here on out we've got to grade this film [from yesterday's practice]," Gibbs said. "We'll go through all of our final stuff, rewrite the game plan, have our quarterback meeting and have a regular meeting in the afternoon, drive all the way across town and meet at night. We're fully booked up."
Expectations for Dockery
Offensive lineman Derrick Dockery earned his way into a starting job as a rookie last season and is primed to have a breakout season, Joe Bugel, assistant head coach-offense, said. Bugel, considered one of the greatest offensive line coaches in the history of the game, believes that Dockery has the ability to become "one of the all-time greats" at his left guard position.
Dockery stands 6 feet 6, weighs a whopping 345 pounds -- 20 more than anyone else on the team -- and is athletic enough to be a dominant force at his position. Working with Bugel the past few months has enhanced his development, Dockery said, and he has learned to use his hands and feet more when blocking and not to rely on his strength alone.
"Sometimes I can get away with that with my size against some players," Dockery said. "But in this league everybody is strong and powerful and especially with my height, if I get too high a smaller guy can get under me and if he's strong and powerful he can push me back. So we've been really just working on the technique."
The team did not change it's injury list for tomorrow's game. Linebacker Mike Barrow (knee) is questionable and Gibbs said he might play. Safety Andre Lott (knee) and H-back Brian Kozlowski (calf strain) are listed as probable. . . . Word of a false Internet story involving an injury to running back Clinton Portis quickly spread to the player himself on Thursday. "I got a lot of strange phone calls ," Portis said. The NFL is investigating the matter. . . . Linebacker Marcus Washington is one of many new Redskins who will make their regular season debut with the team tomorrow, and he will be looking to build off his exceptional preseason. Gibbs said Washington continued to impress through this week's practices and he stands to be a vital cog in the defense.
"Let me say this," Gibbs said. "If I was going to pick one of the guys who had an absolutely outstanding offseason work and regular season work, he'd be one of the guys." . . . The Redskins have signed linebacker Clifton Smith to the practice squad and cut offensive lineman Ryan Boschetti.