No pain is Gannon's gain, as QB due for first Redskins start

November 18, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, VA — ASHBURN, Va. -- On the last play of the Washington Redskins' practice yesterday, Desmond Howard made a diving catch of Rich Gannon's pass.

The Redskins would like to think that's a sign of things to come.

Gannon, who has thrown only 21 passes this year, and Howard, who has caught just seven, could wind up playing bigger roles as the 2-7 Redskins try to salvage their season.

Gannon took all the snaps in practice yesterday on his sore right foot without problems, a sure sign he'll make his first start for the Redskins against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday in Anaheim, Calif.

The only two people at Redskin Park who wouldn't say that Gannonwill start were coach Richie Petitbon and Gannon.

"At this time, it's up in the air," Petitbon said after practice. "There's no use trying to ask tricky questions."

Petitbon said he will wait until Sunday to make the move official to make sure Gannon's foot doesn't give him any problems and to keep the Rams guessing.

"All I know is, I'm getting some work in practice," Gannon said. "I'm trying to make the most of it, to see how it goes. It [foot] felt pretty good."

The odd man out is quarterback Mark Rypien, who was a spectator at practice and got no work.

"I can sympathize with that because I've been in that situation before," Gannon said.

"It's a tough enough position to play when you're healthy," he added.

"He's not healthy and we've struggled staying healthy and we've struggled as a unit executing. It adds up to 2-7."

Whatever the reason for Rypien's problems, he's being benched for the first time since midway through the 1989 season, when he had a fumbling problem.

Rypien went to the sidelines for only two games that time. Doug Williams, who had been out with back problems, came in and produced 13 points in two games -- a 13-3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys and a 10-3 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles -- then gave way to Rypien.

Rypien went 5-1 in the final six games and has started every game since when healthy.

Rypien suffered a knee injury in the second game this year, but has thrown only one touchdown pass and been intercepted seven times in five games since he returned.

Rypien took his demotion without complaint.

"The best way to look at this is that's it's a chance to heal up in case anything does happen," he said.

Gannon is ready to take his shot, but he doesn't feel any pressure.

"If I get a chance to play, I'll be fine," he said. "I don't claim to be a savior or anything. I think I'll add some things to the offense."

The main question is how effective Gannon will be after a long layoff. He suffered a broken bone in his foot in his first regular-season appearance with the Redskins on Oct. 4 in Miami when Cary Conklin was pulled.

He saw brief action at the end of the games against the New York Giants and Phoenix Cardinals when the Redskins thought he only had a bruised foot.

It was after the Phoenix game Oct. 17 that the team discovered the foot was broken, and Gannon didn't return to practice until this week.

"If I get a chance to play, I guess we'll how find out [how well he'll perform after the layoff]," said Gannon, who was obtained in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings in August and who is 19-16 as a starter. He was 8-4 as a starter last year, though he was benched in favor of Sean Salisbury.

Gannon's promotion is an ominous development for Cary Conklin, who was bypassed even though Gannon has been out the next month.

Conklin will be a free agent at the end of the season, and he realizes heno longer fits in the team's plans and will have to leave.

Conklin hasn't publicly complained, though he noted he played only one full game -- a 34-31 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles -- before falling out of favor.

"I'm going to keep a good attitude," Conklin said. "The worst thing you can do is get a bad attitude and not be prepared."

NOTES: Joe Jacoby, who is on IR with two herniated disks in his back, is not ready to concede he'll have to retire at the end of the season. Jacoby, who has played 13 years, hopes rest will solve the problem without surgery. "Maybe there's a possibility for [season] No. 14. I hope there is," he said. . . . DL Shane Collins (foot), OL Ed Simmons (knee) and LB Monte Coleman (hamstring) are out of Sunday's game.

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