Redskins face super challenge to repeat last year's championship Celebrity status adds to distractions

PRO FOOTBALL

September 06, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

When Darrell Green was asked about the perils of trying to repeat as Super Bowl champions, he launched into a story about how he wound up on a downtown Washington street with a dead battery in his truck.

It took two hours and four charges before he could finally get the truck started, he said, and he wound up causing a mini traffic jam because so many fans were crowding around him trying to get autographs.

"I was telling the folks: 'Look, I'm normal. Y'all are the ones who are crazy. I'm just here with a car that won't start and you're out here blocking the street.' I had a good time," Greens said with a smile.

The Washington Redskins' veteran cornerback is bemused by the celebrity treatment he and his teammates get, and he understands it's one of the reasons it's so easy to be lulled into a false sense of complacency.

"The point I was making was, there were so many people out there because I'm Darrell Green," he said. "That's not healthy and it's not natural. That can really work against you repeating. You get lifted so high that it can work against you in terms of coming back to reality.

"We're human beings and human nature comes into play because human beings weren't created to sign autographs."

The problems of human nature help explain why the 1988-89 San Francisco 49ers are the only team to repeat since the Pittsburgh Steelers did it twice in the 1970s with a roster dotted with a group of Hall of Famers.

The 49ers had a special incentive in 1989. They wanted to prove they could win without coach Bill Walsh, who retired the previous year. It also helped that Joe Montana had a super year.

At least the 1983 Redskins made it back to the Super Bowl before being blown out by the Los Angeles Raiders. The year after they beat the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII, the Redskins had their only losing season under coach Joe Gibbs.

So, as the Redskins begin the five-month journey toward Super Bowl XXVII, which will be Jan. 31 at the Rose Bowl, they know that the toughest thing for a defending champion is to learn to live with success.

"It's like the greatest thrill and everybody is watching you on TV and you got your ring, but it can cost you in terms of being focused," Green said.

Green, though, will live with the burden of trying to repeat. It beats all the alternatives.

"The greatest part of it all is that we've got a chance to do it," he said. "That's the greatest thing we have going for us. We're the team that is [trying] to do it this time. How many times did you hear them say, 'the 49ers.' Hey, it's us this time."

If the Redskins can handle the off-the-field part of it, there's no reason why they can't do it on the field.

They struggled during the off-season, but they did that last year. They're not showing much age and they've had only one major injury. Defensive tackle Eric Williams is out for about two months, although his loss has been a major one because the Redskins have had trouble stopping the run without him.

Still, the Redskins have a shot at it.

"The big question is if we can concentrate because I really believe we have the talent. It's really the same team," Green said.

Their top opponents all have major problems, too. San Francisco still doesn't have Joe Montana, Atlanta lost half its secondary, Detroit lost both starting guards, Philadelphia got Randall Cunningham back, but lost Jerome Brown and Dallas' defense is suspect.

Green also says that Gibbs has put together the kind of team that can stay focused for a second straight year.

"We're pretty realistic people, as much as you can be with this system of you being a hero and he's a hero," Green said. "Nobody really wrote any books. I don't think anybody is saying that we've got the formula. We're just a bunch of guys trying to prepare and win games."

Gibbs, of course, is the master of playing the underdog role.

"I don't think there's many people picking us to win again," Gibbs said.

The rest of the Redskins also insist they're not thinking about repeating. They say they're only thinking about the first game in Dallas tomorrow night.

rTC "We don't think about repeating until you guys bring it up," defensive end Charles Mann said.

In the end, the Redskins' hopes of repeating probably rest on the strong right arm of quarterback Mark Rypien.

Rypien showed last Saturday night in the exhibition finale against the Minnesota Vikings how inconsistent he can be when he's not getting good protection and he doesn't have a solid game plan to work with.

Although Rypien admitted he was "terrible," he added, "You're going on 5 percent of what you use during the regular season."

If Rypien can repeat last year's season, the Redskins could, too.

Their toughest fight, though, may not be at the line of scrimmage, but against human nature.

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