Hold microphone, camera-shy Rypien just wants ring Redskins quarterback leaves hoopla to Kelly

January 24, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent MINNEAPOLIS

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jim Kelly was just another member of the media horde with a microphone Tuesday.

Kelly, who doubles as the Buffalo Bills' quarterback, interviewed Mark Rypien of the Washington Redskins for a segment of "The Jim Kelly Show."

"He asked earlier, so it wasn't like it was a spontaneous thing," Rypien said. "He's got a show to do. I was willing to help out. It was basic jargon."

That interview summed up the difference between the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI.

The Bills are a media extravaganza. They want a lot of attention and they're unhappy if they think they're not getting enough of it.

You get the idea that if the Bills win, they'd be arguing about who's the Most Valuable Player and who's going to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The Redskins resemble an old-money family that believes you get your name in the paper only when you're born, you married and you die.

Rypien symbolizes the low-key approach of the Redskins. He's cooperative and does all the requested interviews, but he does them with the same enthusiasm he has for a trip to the dentist.

"We're not media personalities," Rypien said. "If I never saw a camera or a columnist in my life, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it."

Kelly is the star quarterback in this game. He appeared at the media hotel last night with Joe Montana to promote one of the many products he endorses.

Rypien, by contrast, went to a hockey game Wednesday night. A native of Canada, he's a hockey fan and said, "We try to do the same things we would at home."

Rypien likes to do his talking on the field, and he's made a major statement this season.

When he played out his option in 1990 and signed a one-year deal at $1.25 million this season, instead of a long-term deal that would have provided more security, Rypien showed he has confidence in himself.

"He had a chance to take the safe way," coach Joe Gibbs said. "Even at the time he did it [in 1990, I thought], 'Gosh, this is a gamble.' Last year, it didn't really pay off, and then to turn it around and do it again [in 1991]. I think what that says is that he has a lot of confidence in what he's doing. It made me feel good as a coach. I said, 'Hey, this guy has guts. He believes he's going to do this.' "

Rypien said he knew the Redskins felt that way even though team owner Jack Kent Cooke called him a "bloody idiot" for holding out for 10 days before he came to terms.

"To tell you the truth," Rypien said, "management thought it was a situation that took a special deal of pride to do something like that. It showed a confidence factor."

Rypien won the gamble. Big time.

Joe Theismann, a former Redskins quarterback turned ESPN commentator who is probably still better known than Rypien is, said, "The kid went out and bought a Virginia lottery ticket, and Mr. Cooke is paying for it."

Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said he doesn't even want to talk about when he'll open negotiations -- much less about specifics -- until after the Super Bowl.

But if the Redskins win, Rypien could get close to the $3 million-a-year neighborhood.

Not that Rypien is thinking about the cash right now. First, he wants the ring. Gibbs has said repeatedly that a quarterback is judged on how far he takes the team. Rypien needs just one more victory to take a team as far as it can go.

Gibbs says he's surprised that Rypien has played this well.

"I certainly wouldn't have predicted he'd have this kind of year," Gibbs said. "So, it is a surprise from where we were then [in camp] to where we are today. He's gone beyond what most people thought would happen."

It was a long trip to the Super Bowl for Rypien. He spent two years being groomed on injured reserve, and then when he got a chance to play, he suffered injuries in both 1988 and 1990. In 1989, he was benched for fumbling.

The one person who always believed he could do it was Rypien.

"I never doubted myself," he said. "I never will. I wouldn't be in this game if I doubted I could play. I knew I needed to work on some things to become a better player."

There were a lot of doubts last January, when the Redskins lost a playoff game to San Francisco after being unable to score three times in the second half when they had gotten inside the 49ers' 20.

Rypien wouldn't talk about that game when he arrived in training camp. Now he says his ankle was so sore that he needed a painkiller just to play.

"It wasn't like I went out there and stunk the joint up," he said. "I threw for 370 yards [actually, 361] and I made some big plays. It just so happened that I made a couple of mental mistakes down the stretch."

He hasn't made those mistakes this year, and his big arm and grasp of the game plan has enabled him to prove that a quarterback doesn't have to have a fiery or a flamboyant personality to be successful. He's the thinking man's quarterback.

"He's the first quarterback I've met who shows no form of cockiness," wide receiver Gary Clark said. "Quarterbacks are supposed to have some sort of arrogance, but not him. He's like a big, old kid."

Rypien knows he still has one task ahead of him.

"The thing that motivates us is the championship ring," Rypien said. "Anything less than that, we'll feel we let something get away."

Rypien suffers mild ankle sprain

MINNEAPOLIS -- Quarterback Mark Rypien suffered a mild sprain of his right ankle minutes before the end of the Washington Redskins' practice yesterday.

The Redskins were working on an inside-the-20 drill when the pocket collapsed around Rypien and several players fell on him. He limped away and threw down his helmet in disgust. Rypien's ankle was taped, but not iced.

Coach Joe Gibbs said Rypien is expected to practice today and play Sunday.

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