WASHINGTON -- After Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs waited until he had a 45-0 lead in the season opener against the Detroit Lions before he put in rookie Ricky Ervins, who gained 54 yards in six carries, reporters needled him about his reluctance to play rookie running backs.
After Gibbs said he had to feel "comfortable" before putting a player in, reporters asked whether he would have played O.J. Simpson as a rookie.
Gibbs just laughed, but he needled himself after he put Ervins in the second half yesterday and Ervins gained 133 yards on 13 carries in a 42-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Ervins had carried only five times the previous five games.
Gibbs said, "I said two weeks ago whenever I start playing Ricky Ervins, everybody is going to criticize me [for not playing him earlier]."
Ervins had no complaints about not going in earlier.
"If I was the coach, I'd do the same thing," Ervins said.
He credited his offensive line, saying, "Anybody can go up there and run the ball like I did because there were big holes."
Ervins, who said he scored the first touchdown for his fiancee, Shawnese, and the second for the linemen, added, "I never knew he didn't like playing rookies."
* Not that that was all Gibbs was being needled about yesterday.
A few weeks ago, he promised the players seven days off in the bye week if they started out 7-0.
"I wasn't expecting I was going to get that kind of a reaction,Gibbs said with a smile yesterday. "They exploded and said, 'Man, that's great.' Then that afternoon, Russ Grimm was sitting around and said: 'I got to thinking about this, we've got to get five to get even. That's what you gave us last year."
Gibbs, who said he chose his words carefully, didn't promisseven days off in a row. He'll bring the players in for a practice Friday and he's counting next Sunday and Tuesday as part of jTC the seven.
"Players like money and days off," Gibbs said. "I didn't have any money, so I gave them days off."
* Veteran linebacker Monte Coleman pulled a pair of red gloves out of his locker yesterday.
"These are the gloves he [Art Monk] caught the record with. He gave me the gloves. If I would have caught the record, I wouldn't have given him the gloves," said Coleman, one of Monk's best friends on the team.
Technically, Monk didn't set a record, but passed Charlie Joiner to move into second place on the all-time list.
Monk's gesture, though, was a measure of the man.
Coleman said: "It's kind of like a painter. You don't appreciate his work until after he's dead. I'm not saying that about Art, but I'm sure he'll appreciate the things he's done for the game a lot more [after he retires]. Later on in his career, maybe after he retires, he'll look back on a moment like this and appreciate it a lot more."
* Cleveland's Bill Belichick is showing signs of coaching paranoia. He told Webster Slaughter after the game not to discuss the details of the 14-yard touchdown pass he caught on a fake field-goal attempt, even though all the coaches can watch it on film.
Belichick would say only: "They didn't cover him, so we threhim the ball. That's the way I saw it."
* Slaughter caught only one other pass, but he wasn't giving ancredit to Darrell Green.
"He has great speed, but the feeling was that he didn't cover all that great," Slaughter said. "He played against me for four quarters, and basically I beat him for four quarters and I didn't get any passes thrown my way."
Slaughter said he's talked to Belichick about the Browns throwing more to him. "He knows how I feel about the situation," he said.