The size of the crowd was smaller than the mass of humanity that awaited Coach Joe Gibbs during Fan Appreciation Day last year, but the message to those listening at Redskins Park was largely the same. Gibbs is entering his second season after ending a 12-year NFL retirement, and although he offered no predictions of how many games he thinks the Redskins (6-10 in 2004) will win in 2005, he is counting on the support of Washington's rabid fan base.
"I think we have the best fans in the world," Gibbs told the crowd. "All of us that coach and play for the Washington Redskins, we feel that. I think this football team is super important to you and super important to us."
Gibbs again praised his players for their work in the offseason and took questions from the crowd. Fans asked him about finally incorporating the shotgun formation, about the health of star offensive lineman Jon Jansen and others and inquired about the coach's health. Gibbs, 64, endured a stent procedure in the offseason.
"I feel great, I feel great," Gibbs said to a crowd announced at 7,325. "I know I may not look it, but I'm doing pretty good."
Scrimmage vs. Ravens
The Redskins expect a tough afternoon scrimmage with the Ravens in Baltimore today, and Gibbs has talked all week about the physicality of their opponent's defense. The teams will spend two hours on the field together, including seven-on-seven, nine-on-nine and 11-on-11 drills, with each offense running 40 plays.
The format was devised to simulate game conditions, and Gibbs said all of his quarterbacks will get work in the outing.
"It'll be the first full-go work," Gibbs said. "You get some kind of a feeling for an evaluation process. That's important. We'll look at some players more than others. When you're going up against a real physical group I think our seven-on-seven work will be really important. I think it will be a real test for us."
With the scrimmage looming, the Redskins practiced only about 90 minutes in the stifling heat yesterday and spent the final drills with the defense mimicking Baltimore's defense to get the offense prepared.
A group of injured Redskins will miss today's scrimmage, including linebacker LaVar Arrington, cornerback Carlos Rogers, defensive tackle Brandon Noble, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, cornerback Walt Harris and cornerback Artrell Hawkins.
First-round pick Jason Campbell's contract was structured so he could begin making sizeable incentives based on becoming a starter in 2006, according to a source who has reviewed the contract. Campbell will begin cashing in playing-time bonuses should he take 60 percent or more of Washington's snaps that season, and those incentives continue through the remainder of his five-year deal. The incentive-laden contract can be worth between $5.3 million and $25 million based on how much, and how well, Campbell plays. . . .
Punter Tom Tupa dealt with serious scares to his wife and himself last season, but all matters have been resolved, Gibbs revealed yesterday. Gibbs excused Tupa from offseason training on several occasions to deal with the issue. The team is not disclosing specifics, but said the player and his wife are fine now and looking forward to the season.