Once-controversial bye week now a welcome respite Gibbs, Redskins grateful for time off

September 27, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

When coach Joe Gibbs first looked at the NFL schedule last May, he thought the Washington Redskins' bye week came too early in the season.

The idea of taking the fourth week of the season off wasn't too appealing. He liked it better last season when the bye came in the eighth week.

Now that the bye week is here, though, Gibbs is all for it.

After a tumultuous training camp that included trips to London and Los Angeles, four frustrating holdouts and a move to a new training facility -- and then an embarrassing loss in Dallas in the opener -- Gibbs is ready for a break.

"After all the things that happened early, it's a good time to take a breath, get a pause, polish some things up and get back with a good focus," Gibbs said.

The players echo Gibbs' thoughts. Nobody in the Redskins' locker room was complaining about the early break last week.

Linebacker Wilber Marshall said: "Right now, we're 2-1 and I think it helps. If we were 3-0, we'd want to keep the roll going."

Even the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, who are 3-0, are not disappointed that they're being forced to take a week off before they meet in Philadelphia next Monday night.

The Eagles and Cowboys also say they welcome the break.

"I'm glad we'll have the extra time off to get ready for Philadelphia," coach Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson.

"I don't think we're going to lose any momentum because of the bye week," said Philadelphia coach Rich Kotite.

"It's good because we're in the type of business we're in. We've been going nonstop since July 6. We've played eight games already [including exhibitions]. I want the players fresh and the coaches fresh because it's a long haul," Kotite added.

Johnson even likes the idea of more hype for the Monday night game between the Cowboys and Eagles.

"Each team having a week off, there will be a lot of buildup," Johnson said. "For a regular-season game, you can't get much bigger. It's on 'Monday Night Football.' It's a division game and we are both unbeaten. It's a big, big game."

It's hard to find anybody to complain about the bye week regardless of when it comes.

When it was introduced three years ago to squeeze more money out of the TV networks, the coaches were leery. Football is a game of routine. The coaches and players are used to going every week, and the coaches were afraid of breaking up that routine.

"I originally thought it was going to be a giant pain," Gibbs admits.

Now he welcomes it.

"If we had a couple in there, it might get everybody to last longer," Gibbs said.

In a sport in which 18-hour days and seven-day work weeks are the norm, the coaches enjoy a chance to recharge their batteries.

Gibbs, for example, took a busman's holiday and flew to San Francisco to watch his son, Coy, play for Stanford against San Jose State in Palo Alto yesterday.

The only negative about the bye week is that it hasn't been the TV bonanza it was supposed to be.

By scheduling an extra week of games, the networks figured they could sell more commercials to finance the four-year, $3.6 billion contract they agreed to in 1990.

This year, each team was supposed to have two byes and the schedule was going to be lengthened from 17 to 18 weeks.

Instead, it turned out the networks had trouble selling ads because of the recession. They didn't want another week, so they canceled the second bye week this year.

Another thing the bye week does is dilute the TV schedule. There are only 11 games this week because all five NFC East teams and the AFC East fifth place team (Indianapolis) have byes.

Nobody is going to miss Indianapolis and Phoenix, but the other four NFC East teams -- Washington, Dallas, Philadelphia and New York -- are prime TV attractions in big markets.

A lot of the players on the bye weekend will be in front of their TV sets like other fans.

"We'll watch the games and see what's happening around the league," quarterback Mark Rypien said.

Like the rest of the players, though, he's happy with the bye.

"The break came at a perfect time," Rypien said. "First of all, we had some guys banged up. And it gives us a chance to see where we are as a team."

While the Cowboys and Eagles hope to pick up where they left off, the Redskins hope they'll be a better team after the break than they were before

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