Gibbs had backed off a bit from harder practices for fear of burning out his veteran players. Now it was grueling practice for everyone, and if someone couldn't hold up, he didn't deserve to be there.
During the first practice after the Body Bag Game, in fact, Gibbs chewed out the entire team. Someone who was there said that Gibbs was shaking with anger, that he called his players "gutless." He told them that they had had a pretty good ride but that the ride would be over if they didn't work much harder.
When Eric Williams was acquired from the Detroit Lions, he found out quickly what Gibbs meant. "Oh, my God, that Wednesday practice is tougher than some games I've played in," Williams said. "I wondered why we had hamburgers for lunch. I found out that was a pre-game meal."
But that was not the only change. The bigger one, the one that would carry the Redskins for the next three seasons, was a return to the power running game. With the departure of John Riggins and the injuries of Gerald Riggs, Gibbs turned to Byner, the veteran acquired in a 1989 draft-day deal with the Cleveland Browns. Gibbs decided to ride Byner, and ride him he did down the stretch in 1990. Byner had four straight 100-yard games, with the Redskins averaged a bone-jarring 176 rushing yards a game.
"We decided we could run the ball no matter what the other team is doing," guard Russ Grimm said.
The Redskins who did that weren't a bunch of high-visibility hotshots. Yes, they had their remarkable receivers. But equally if not more important was their enviable, if quieter, offensive line, with greats like Jacoby and Lachey. Mostly, though, there was a long list of workmanlike players who had been low-round draft choices and who constantly worked to prove that they belonged. If Deion Sanders and Barry Sanders are the players fans remember, Mark Rypien and Earnest Byner are the players coaches appreciate.
Byner, for example, had been a 10th-round draft choice. He arrived in Washington with a reputation as an excellent worker who had made mistakes in big games. His fumbles in the playoffs twice had helped keep Cleveland out of the running, and the Redskins wondered exactly what they were getting.
What they got was more than they could have imagined. Byner was a relentless worker, a solid performer on Sundays and a role model for every young player.