Coach Joe Gibbs had a simple message for his Washington Redskins players as they prepare for a trip that could change some of their lives forever.
"I told them to enjoy every bit of it," Gibbs said as the Redskins packed for Minneapolis today for a week of festivities for Super Bowl XXVI against the Buffalo Bills next Sunday.
"The problem I had for the first couple of times [with] the young guys is they have a tendency to get uptight, to worry about this and that. It's like a fire drill. I said the good news is that we're going to the Super Bowl. I said the bad news is that we're going to the Super Bowl. It's a madhouse," he said.
Gibbs said the players have to expect things to be somewhat chaotic and to cope with that.
"One of the biggest things is attitude. It isn't going to be perfect. You've got to relax and go through it and we'll work out any problems," he said.
After working out at Redskin Park today, the Redskins will fly to Minneapolis and have a day off tomorrow before beginning their regular work week Wednesday.
The players have three one-hour sessions with the media tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. But the real distraction is dealing with ticket requests and the logistics of getting family and friends to the game.
"Everyone wants a ticket," said quarterback Mark Rypien, who got tickets for about 40 relatives and friends.
Once he leaves today, he'll turn that all over to his wife, who comes later in the week.
"The wives can look like the devil's advocate and say no a lot of times better than I can. I want to please everyone," Rypien said.
Much of the focus is on the Bills, who are trying to come back and win after losing a 20-19 heart-breaker to the New York Giants last year. But it is the Redskins who have the edge in Super Bowl experience.
They've got six players making their fourth trip. They have been on the winning side twice. The players and several coaches remember what it was like losing to the Los Angeles Raiders, 38-9, after the 1983 season.
"I remember sitting on that plane [going home] and thinking, 'How could this happen?' " said Gibbs.
"It was a real bitter disappointment. I was shocked that I'd feel that way [after] getting to the Super Bowl. I don't think you realize you'd feel that way. I think we've had both kinds [of Super Bowls], and one kind [winning] is a lot better than the other one," Gibbs said.
The Redskins learned a lot from that loss. Art Monk said last week that the team was overconfident and some players stayed out too late during the week. They didn't make that mistake when they came back for their third appearance in Super Bowl XXII and blew out the Denver Broncos, 42-10, four years ago.
One thing Gibbs now has is bed checks. "I blamed it on Russ Grimm and a few of the guys after their wisecracks about the second one [the loss to the Raiders]. I said, 'OK, we want bed checks, we'll have bed checks.' I let them all know that Russ is responsible for bed checks," Gibbs said with a smile.
The players also have to deal with the stress that comes with the magnitude of the game.
"This is the pressure game of the year. There will be heroes made," Rypien said.
Rypien was being groomed on the injured reserve list when the Redskins routed the Broncos.
"We had some guys set a lot of records and do a lot of great things and a lot of guys became heroes because of that game and I think that's what this can be," Rypien said.
Rypien can be a hero this time the way Doug Williams was four years ago, but he's quick to note an unsung player could wind up in the spotlight.
"It might be someone you might not even think, maybe a Stephen Hobbs, maybe a Ravin Caldwell, maybe someone like that," he said.
When the Raiders routed the Redskins, an obscure linebacker named Jack Squirek became famous for intercepting the famous "rocket screen" pass and scoring a touchdown that made it 21-3 at halftime.
On the other hand, players can make mistakes that they will be never be allowed to forget. Scott Norwood's missed field-goal try last year and a dropped pass in the end zone by Jackie Smith in Super Bowl XIII are just two examples. Smith had a distinguished career as a tight end for the St. Louis Cardinals, but is remembered mainly for dropping the pass for the Dallas Cowboys against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Redskins don't want to even think about that side. They want to think about getting a ring.
"The thing that motivates us is that championship ring," Rypien said. "Anything less than that and we feel we let something get away."