Redskins looking past Browns Opener vs. Dallas gets the attention

August 09, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Redskins open their exhibition season at RFK Stadium tonight against the Cleveland Browns. But all eyes are 28 days ahead as fans and players focus on D Day -- Dallas Day, Sept. 6.

The Redskins would be happy to beat the Browns, but not at the expense of their preparation for the Cowboys.

It'll be the first game for new head coach Richie Petitbon, and when he was asked if he'll have butterflies, he responded this way:

"I think I'll wait until Sept. 6 for that.

"I don't think anybody will remember what your preseason record was. It might be nice the day after a game to have a win, but it really doesn't make any difference. I think you have to get ready for the opener, you have to get ready for the season."

Petitbon said it's easy to win exhibition games.

"You just play your veterans and you win, but that's stupid. We have to get these guys ready to play the season. I think it's more important that our good players play well and not that they play long," he said. Petitbon's veterans should get about 25 snaps.

The Redskins fans aren't too excited about this one, either. The Redskins have sold out every non-strike, regular-season game for more than 25 years, but they've got 20,000 tickets available for this exhibition opener.

Rod Dowhower also is thinking about Dallas. He makes his debut as offensive coordinator in place of Joe Gibbs, who called the plays for the past 12 years as head coach.

"You don't want to show everything in the preseason. I don't want them [Cowboys] to see it," Dowhower said.

"They don't know what they're going to see, and they don't know what formations they're going to see it out of," Dowhower said.

For the players who are trying to make an impression, though, the first outing is important.

The offense will be under scrutiny because the Redskins will be using a new two-back offense along with a short passing game that has been the trademark of the San Francisco 49ers.

Petitbon has spent the camp downplaying the impact of the two-back offense. "I don't think it's that big a deal. It's not like we're launching the first spaceship," he said.

Regardless of the formations they use, the Redskins want to show they can run the ball -- they didn't in either of their scrimmages -- and their receivers will be expected to play better after Petitbon's criticism last week.

Dowhower said: "I like it [the play of the receivers] better than I did a week ago. For a while, the only guy making plays was Mark Stock. I kept telling them that you've got to show me something. If you show me what you can do, I'll start calling plays for you."

Desmond Howard, who made a spectacular catch in practice last week after being slowed by a groin injury at the start of camp, isn't 100 percent, but he's getting close.

"I want to see him step up his game. That scrimmage is fine, but I want to see it happen in games," Dowhower said.

By contrast, all Dowhower wants quarterback Mark Rypien to do is continue to play well. He's had a good camp after holding out last year.

"He wasn't ready to play last year. You've heard the term, 'You can't walk off the bus and play.' You just don't do it. He's thrown more good balls in practice than I've ever seen him throw," Dowhower said.

Rypien, booed last year during the introductions before the first regular-season home game, responded by knocking the fans. This year, he said, he is not worried about their response.

"I can be booed out of a stadium. That's not going to hurt me physically or emotionally," he said.

He said he's excited about the opportunity to rebound from last year.

"I think we're all excited. We've got a new coach, and we've got something to prove," he said.

NOTES: LB Carl Banks (hamstring) is likely to be the only starter who won't play. Three other players, C Matt Elliott (knee), CB Tom Carter (back) and WR Stephen Hobbs (groin) are out. . . . This will be the Redskins' first look at two new rule changes: the time between plays had been cut from 45 to 40 seconds and the quarterback can throw the ball away outside the pocket. Petitbon doesn't like either. . . . The NFL wanted the Redskins to play in Berlin this week, but they balked at the prospect of going to Europe two years in a row.

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