HERNDON,VA. — HERNDON, Va. -- When the Washington Redskins flew home from Detroit on Sunday, Jeff Rutledge had an ice pack on his thigh.
Rutledge, who bruised his thigh running the draw play for the touchdown that helped force overtime in the Washington Redskins' 41-38 overtime victory over the Detroit Lions, said, "It was the first time in a long time that I felt like I'd played in a football game on the plane ride home."
Rutledge, who relieved Stan Humphries in the third quarter and brought the Redskins back from a 35-14 deficit, has made a career out of being a bench-warmer with the Los Angeles Rams and the New York Giants.
He'll make just the 10th start of his 12-year career and the first since 1987 when the Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.
Rutledge, though, wasn't looking that far ahead yesterday. He still was savoring the victory.
Even before he arrived home Sunday night, his wife, Laura, was deluged with calls from friends and well-wishers.
"It was good to hear from a lot of people," he said.
His wife was ironing clothes while she watched the game.
"She was excited," he said. "I was surprised she didn't burn every piece of clothing we had while she was ironing."
His children were playing soccer, and they watched it with him on videotape after he got home. At least, he watched it with two of his three children.
His 7-year-old daughter, Meg, wasn't interested.
"My neighbors taped it for us and brought it over," Rutledge said. "The kids [Brooks, 11, Christen, 9] were excited, but my little one never did watch it and couldn't have cared less. I said, 'I can't believe you didn't watch Daddy play,' and she just laughed."
Rutledge said his wife said, "It was a lot easier to watch the second time around when you knew the results."
It was a game Rutledge never will forget.
"The way it ended up was definitely the highlight of my short playing time in my long career," he said.
Rutledge managed to never get discouraged even though he's been a career backup. When he failed to beat out Phil Simms in New York, he asked to be traded, but the Giants decided to keep him. He never complained about his fate.
"I'm not the complaining type," he said. "That's just not me. It didn't mean I took it lightly because I was upset about it. [Coach] Bill [Parcells] knew I wanted to play."
Rutledge finally left the Giants this year when he was signed with the Redskins as a Plan B free agent after the Giants left him unprotected.
Rutledge led Alabama to a national title in the 1978 season, when the Crimson Tide beat Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, but he never was considered a top pro prospect. He lasted until the ninth round when the Rams took him in 1979.
The next question is how long Rutledge will last as the Redskins' starter, because coach Joe Gibbs is getting a reputation for changing quarterbacks. He's switched starters 15 times since Joe Theismann broke a leg in 1985.
Gibbs, though, said: "I don't think people around here think I'm quick to jerk people in and out. It's not something where we're just willy-nilly jerking guys around. I think there have been reasons every time [for changing]."
Humphries took the benching well yesterday.
"It was [Gibbs'] decision," Humphries said. "As long as we win the game, it doesn't matter."
Gibbs also gave Humphries a vote of confidence. "I think he's got a heck of a future. The only thing he lacks is experience."
In a not-so-subtle reference to Schroeder, Gibbs also said, "He didn't go off and pout someplace."
Still, Gibbs made it obvious the job is wide-open. Rypien, who hurt his knee on Sept. 23, hopes to start practicing this week and may join the battle, although Gibbs said Humphries is ahead of Rypien right now.
"If Jeff can play for us and get us in the playoffs, that would be fantastic," Gibbs said. "If it means, we're going back to Stan, I'm not afraid to do that. If it means Ryp gets back in there, whatever happens, happens. We're going to play it out.
"If it comes to alternating guys, I don't care. If it meant playing a guy for a quarter and another guy for another quarter, I don't care. I just want to win."
NOTES: Gibbs said the play when Gerald Riggs ran for a first down around the right side in overtime was the same play on which he fumbled against Philadelphia last year. . . . The Redskins will get two days off before they start practicing Thursday for the Eagles game.