The Washington Redskins returned to the field yesterday, participating in a rough, yet spirited and upbeat practice at Redskins Park following several days off that many players used to fly to their home towns for a respite from football. Most players said they were happy to be back.
"It was good. I got lazy out there," said linebacker Marcus Washington, who returned to Auburn, Ala., for some home-cooked meals that included collard greens and ribs, and a celebration of his 28th birthday -- it was Oct. 17 -- that featured red velvet cake and German chocolate cake. He also spent hours playing his PlayStation during the team's bye week.
"Coach Gibbs worked all of that out of me today," Washington said, grinning widely, sweat dripping down his face, as he and several teammates trudged off the practice field. "It's good to be back into the swing of things. You get a chance to watch some teams on Sunday and you kind of miss it. You're ready to come back. We were ready today."
Middle linebacker Antonio Pierce agreed, "Most of the guys watched football [Sunday], and when you get to watch another team play you kind of miss being out here, regardless of how tired you are."
The Redskins, who snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the Chicago Bears before the bye week, play their first game in two weeks on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers at FedEx Field.
"It was good. It was kind of messy out there, but that's part of life," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "It was the first day back but I thought everybody was trying to do their best."
Yesterday's practice included linebacker LaVar Arrington (right-knee surgery) and defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin strain), both of whom have missed the past four games because of injuries. Absent from Redskins Park, however, was offensive lineman Kenyatta Jones, who was cut yesterday after having started three games.
Washington's defense, which is ranked first in the NFL, hopes to grow even stronger with the return of Arrington, Daniels and linebacker Mike Barrow. The threesome topped a list of several injured Redskins who used the bye week to mend.
"It helped a great deal," said Bubba Tyer, the team's lead trainer. "We probably had 10 players who showed a noticeable difference. The off-week was very beneficial to us."
During warmups yesterday, Arrington jumped up and down as if on a pogo stick in anticipation. "He was excited about being back," Gibbs said.
Arrington's practice was cut short after the linebacker slipped and strained his right knee. The Redskins, who don't practice again until tomorrow, don't consider the aggravation serious. His knee was examined in the afternoon and Arrington is expected to practice tomorrow.
Daniels participated in the entire practice, although he didn't go full force in certain drills, and expects a specialist he will visit today to give him the go-ahead to play Sunday.
"I felt pretty good to be out there," Daniels said. "I felt kind of bored" in past weeks.
Barrow, who is suffering from acute tendinitis in his knee, didn't practice yesterday, but only because he needs clearance from a specialist he will visit today. However, Barrow, an offseason acquisition who has yet to make his Redskins debut, will practice Wednesday, Tyer said.
Despite the performance of Washington's defense, the unit hasn't yet faced as well-rounded an offense as that of the Packers. Quarterback Brett Favre and tailback Ahman Green are two of the NFL's best at their positions.
During Sunday's 41-20 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay amassed 480 yards. Green carried 15 times for 163 yards, including a 90-yard touchdown dash. In the past two games, both wins, the Packers have netted 914 yards and 79 points.
"It'll be a supreme test," Gibbs said, alluding to Washington's defense against Green Bay's high-powered offense.
Washington said: "It's definitely the most important test because it's the next game. It's going to be tough. Brett Favre, Ahman Green. You say those two names, you know you're going to be in for a game."
The Redskins would be helped if Favre halts his NFL record streak of 196 regular season starts. Favre suffered a hand injury Sunday after bumping it against a player's helmet. Several Redskins scoffed at the thought that Favre might not play.
"Unless we hurt him during the game," said cornerback Shawn Springs, "he's going to play."
Packers Coach Mike Sherman said he will probably list Favre as probable for Sunday's game, the Packers' first road game against the Redskins in 25 years.
Although Washington's players got most of the week off, the Redskins coaches only took off the weekend. Most of Gibbs's time was spent working on improving the offense.
Quarterback Mark Brunell visited family members in Jacksonville during the bye week and didn't watch any football. "Not a down," Brunell said.
But Brunell said he is focused on reversing his play, and that of the entire offense.
"Guys are pretty optimistic, I think, about what we're doing and where we think we're headed," Brunell said. "So we'll see. Hopefully, that enthusiasm translates into a pretty good work week, which I think it will. Hopefully, that turns into a win for us because we could use it."