Lets Get it On!

They've waited for this game for a long time, even if it doesn't count. Fans have dreamt of this moment -- Joe Gibbs' first game back. Players have awaited this game, if only because it provided a chance to hit an opposing player. There's one person who could wait a little longer: Gibbs. ''I wish we had six more weeks,'' he said.

But they don't. So tonight, the Redskins will play Denver in the nationally televised Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, their first of five preseason games. There's an abundance of storylines, from Clinton Portis facing his old team to Champ Bailey facing his. Who got the better end of the deal? In truth, both sides got a lot. But it's hard to believe the Redskins won't miss Bailey and it's hard to imagine the Broncos not missing Portis.

However, the storyline that landed this game on national TV involves Gibbs.

''Just what you want,'' Gibbs said of playing a national game in his first night back. ''I hope a bunch of people are gonna turn it off.'' Typical Gibbs, paranoid about what his team might, or might not, do. But he does like facing the Broncos because they'll square off against a proven coaching staff. In Washington, the coaches are still trying to gauge what they have. In some cases they know; it's not hard to detect what players such as LaVar Arrington or Portis can do. Just flip on the film.

But the battles for the final roster spots will start to take shape tonight. Don't forget: special teams coach Danny Smith has final say over at least several roster spots. That's why, if a young guy flashes tonight, start paying attention.

''It'll be interesting to see how they play under the lights when it counts,'' Gibbs said. ''The players are probably ready to go. But you really don't know. Sometimes I've gotten out there and we've looked awful and you say, 'Gosh, what are we going to do? We're so far off?' And then other times you're pleasantly surprised. One good thing is that we're playing Denver and they have a senior group of coaches. They've been to Super Bowls. You go outthere and you get tested so that's good.''

Kenyatta Jones should get a big look tonight at right guard. Rookie linemen Jim Molinaro and Mark Wilson also will have their first chance to show what they can do. And just what will the defense show? Can Regan Upshaw help as a pass rusher? Gregg Williams wants to use lots of different schemes and looks, but how much will he show tonight? Chances are, not much. The same is true on offense. Mostly the Redskins want to see things done right, win or lose. That means attention to detail on both sides of the ball. That means few penalties, few turnovers, and correct assignments being played.

In the past, Gibbs placed little weight on the preseason. That might have changed a little. ''It's definitely different than when we were here before toward the end,'' Gibbs said. ''Toward the end to be truthful it wasn't that big a deal. We were more concerned about technically doing things right and if you didn't win you didn't win. It's different now. I'm not sure our approach will change a lot more. I know I'll be more nervous. I feel like I'm going back and starting all over again. I'd hate to look bad. The players feel that way too. It's different when we were coming in the first go-around. We would like to play good in that game.''

So, too, would Portis. He's been nothing but respectful toward the Broncos since arriving in the trade. But Portis isn't going to worry about what he does. Like most of the starters, he doesn't know how much he'll even play. Gibbs doesn't like to tell his starters how much they'll play. It's likely they'll play a couple series.

''It'll be fun [to see ex-teammates],'' Portis said. ''But it would be more fun if it was a game that actually counts. If I have a spectacular five touchdown game -- again -- no one will remember it because it's preseason. So if we see them in the Super Bowl that would be more exciting.''

As for the trade, Portis said, ''I won't try to prove this or that. You can't please everybody. Redskins fans will be happy with me and Broncos fans will be happy with Champ. At the end of the day that's all that matters.''


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories