Rypien sweats hot questions Won't talk money or playoff loss

July 26, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

CARLISLE, Pa. -- Mopping his brow with a white towel after his first workout in the weight tent at training camp yesterday, Mark Rypien faced a battery of microphones and cameras and revealed more by what he wouldn't talk about than what he would.

The first thing he didn't want to discuss was the contract that ended his holdout Wednesday.

"I'm really uncomfortable talking about money, talking about issues, other than the fun of the sport," he said.

Fun? Sport?

Pro football is big business, which is why the Washington Redskins made Rypien a million-dollar quarterback.

Even more revealing was the other item Rypien didn't want to discuss -- last January's 28-10 playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's too early to start talking about that. Let's wait a little while," he said.

The game was played six months and 13 days ago, but Rypien still isn't ready to discuss it. The memory still may be too painful.

That's because it was the biggest test of his five-year career, and he flunked it.

In the second half, on Washington's second, third and fourth possessions, the Redskins had first downs on the 49ers' 7-, 15- and 19-yard lines while trailing, 21-10.

They failed to get a point on those three drives, two of which ended on Rypien interceptions.

Even the fans haven't forgotten. He was even booed after one errant pass in his first practice. Booing in training camp is almost unheard of.

It figures he'd get off to a slow start after the holdout. "It looked like a first workout," coach Joe Gibbs said. "I thought he threw a few flutterballs."

Gibbs is more patient than the fans. He's sticking with Rypien over Stan Humphries despite that 49ers game, but Rypien has to play better in big games if he's to have a future with the team.

That's because Rypien knows the standard Gibbs sets for a quarterback.

"Your first goal is to get back in the playoffs again and then win the big one. That's the only way you're graded as a true champion -- if you can win the big game. That's the Super Bowl," Rypien said.

Gibbs couldn't have said it better. He says a quarterback ultimately is judged on how far he takes a team.

"It's a high standard, but this is a high-standard football team, a team that I feel is a championship-caliber team," said Rypien. "Some people just work to get in the playoffs. Our goal is to get there and take it all the way from there."

This has all the makings of a super year for the Redskins. They seem solid on defense and have just two major problems on offense. One is replacing tight end Don Warren, who broke his right fibula Wednesday. The other is getting consistent quarterbacking.

That's where Rypien comes in. If he has a solid year, the Redskins could go to the Super Bowl. If he doesn't -- and they don't -- he's likely to get much of the blame.

Rypien knows the impatient Washington fans aren't going to give him the benefit of the doubt, but he's been booed before and says he can cope with it.

"Every time something goes wrong, the first thought is to do that [boo]," he said. "I don't think it's anything against the person. It's an instinct. It happens to everyone."

Rypien likes to think he'll be better this year because he worked harder in the off-season to get himself in shape. He even lost 18 pounds, is now down to 230 and wants to play at 225. Last year, he weighed about 234. He says that being lighter will help improve his mobility so he's not such a sitting duck in the pocket.

One thing Rypien has going for him is that Gibbs is backing him completely. Humphries, who twisted his ankle in practice yesterday, but said it wasn't serious, completed 14 of 15 passes in a Wednesday night scrimmage against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but quickly stepped aside for Rypien.

The first thing Rypien wants to do is get off to a quick start.

"We've been a very strong finishing team. We want to get going early. It's something this team hasn't been able to do," he said.

For Rypien, though, the key isn't how he starts. The key this year is how the Redskins finish.

NOTES: Warren had 2 screws placed in the displaced fracture of the right fibula during surgery in Washington yesterday. Gibbs said the surgery went well, said Warren was the "perfect patient," and hopes he can be back in 8 weeks. But at age 35, Warren is going to have a tough road back. . . . Humphries left practice early after twisting his ankle when he stepped on a teammate's foot and fell. He said he thinks the ankle will be sore today, but he doesn't expect to miss any practice time. . . . The practice fields figure to get chewed up the next 3 weeks because a watering ban has been instituted in Carlisle.

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