Q&A with: Earnest Byner

Earnest Byner, now in Baltimore's front office, understands the passions of Redskins fans. Which is why he enjoyed playing in Washington. He also understands Marty Schottenheimer, having played for him in Cleveland. And that's why he's long been sold on him as a coach. Here are Byner's thoughts on Marty and the Redskins.

Q: Are you surprised with what's going on with Marty?

A: No. The reason I say no is with the salary cap being as it is and all the changes they had to make--they were definitely up against the cap--and them having to learn and adjust to Marty after having their way with Norv. With all those adjustments coming around, you're looking for a rough start and hopefully things will start gravitating to a more positive outcome. I think they're really up against it, being in the NFC East playing the Giants and Eagles. The reality is they have a ways to go. Marty will continue to do things. I think he's more open now to the different perspectives of the players and maybe some of the staff as far as how to do things and communicate with the modern-day player.

Q: Are you surprised Marty's under as much heat as he is?

A: No. I'm not surprised because we're looking at a microwave society. People have come in and had instant success. But look at Dick Vermeil. Look at our situation. It took us two years to get to the Super Bowl. But the reality is it's going to take time. Especially when you're a man who believes in his work ethic and believes in his philosophy. It will take time, especially when you're a disciplinarian like Marty.

Q: What did you think of playing for Marty?

A: I enjoyed playing for him. I thought he challenged us. I thought he was an excellent leader. I thought he was forthright with the players. This was Marty's philosophy: If you can't do it, I'll get someone else in here who can. That's what pushed us and motivated us. He communicated with us in such a way where you felt his emotions. When that was all coming together and you had a group of players like we did . . . We were real workers. When we were on field we real workers and we gravitated to his mentality.

Q: Does it feel like it's been 10 years since the Super Bowl season?

A: No. Just like being college it goes by like that. The reality is we had a great situation at that particular time. We were at the tail end of the Joe Gibbs regime and his style of running the team. As the '90s progressed San Francisco's style seemed to prevail. I was still wearing the ring up until last year [LAUGHS]. And every now and then when feel like walking to and fro I wear both of them. But those years have gone by. We had a reunion last year with the team at a golf tournament. Seeing some of those guys brought back so many memories.

Q: You guys were close and there were a lot of good guys. What made that group special?

A: That particular team was spiritual based. Joe Gibbs was a Christian and tried to walk the walk as much as he could, being in football. But that base, going to each other's house, going to bible study. All those family type things produced that atmosphere and guys really cared and loved each other and respected each other.

Q: What sticks out from that season?

A: Monday night down in Dallas. Emmitt Smith coming out on fire and Chip Lohmiller kicking those 50-yard field goals and coming in after that game [a 33-31 come-from-behind win] and hearing Richie Petitbon say we going to the Super Bowl. How do you know? But evidently he's a prophet, too.

Q: Did you feel the team was headed that way?

A: We won the last five games of the season the year before. That built us up with the type of chemistry we needed to go in and be successful. But to think about the Super Bowl at that time? No, we couldn't. We had no idea that that was going to happen. I didn't anyway.

Q: What did it mean to be a Redskin?

A: Part of that legacy and that winning tradition really stands out in my mind. Being able to be respected by these fans for things I did on the field. For me personally being a Redskin was being a man of honor. That helped to raise me and make me that type of man.

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