Redskins Luncheon Highlights

The usual fare was served, with the usual attendees in the room: a few of the Hogettes, members of the Redskins band and some of the cheerleaders. This Welcome Home Luncheon was much different than those of the past 11 years, however. It's not hard to understand why, not with Joe Gibbs back in charge.

Here are some of the highlights:

. . . Gibbs received a standing ovation from the several hundred fans when he stepped to the microphone. He was the same: funny, to the point and adamant about the fans' role in the season.

''If you want to coach or play, then there's no better place to be than where it's really important,'' Gibbs said. ''I truly believe we have the greatest sports franchise in the world.''

Gibbs reminisced about the Super Bowl loss to the Raiders, telling them how fast perceptions can change. In this case, the screen pass that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown altered his image.

''The next day the Washington Post said I was a buffoon,'' Gibbs said. ''In 18 seconds I go from being real smart to that.''

. . . Corner Fred Smoot was named the team's Defensive Player of the Year, with Darrell Green making the presentation.

During his remarks, Green talked about how he always thought he had been Smoot's hero. Until he noticed that Smoot's career-high in tackles was only nine.

''He's a Deion Sanders fan!'' Green said he realized.

. . . Smoot, for once, was unbelievably low key in accepting the award. He's talkative, but he's also humble. And this seemed to humble him.

. . . Receiver Laveranues Coles earned the Offensive Player of the Year award.

''He's someone who could have played in either era, mine or today,'' said ex-receiver Roy Jefferson, his presentor.

. . . Kicker John Hall was the Special Teams Player of the Year.

''He can come in and hit the big one and that's what it's all about,'' Mark Moseley said. ''My only concern is that he'll make everyone forget about me.''

Moseley also told a funny story about Gibbs and a husband and wife who always sat behind the Redskins' bench for years. Good weather or bad, they were always there.

But one day, the team came onto the field and Gibbs noticed that only one was there -- and the other seat was empty. So Gibbs walked over to the woman and said, ''Boy, you've been coming here for years and you've always been together. What happened?''

''My husband passed away,'' the woman replied.

Gibbs expressed his sympathy and said the team would keep him in their prayers.

''But couldn't you have at least found someone to come to the game with you, a brother or a son or a friend?'' Gibbs asked her.

She had a fast reply.

''They're all at the funeral,'' she said.

. . . And three items were auctioned off: two tickets to the Bucs' game, with pre-game field passes, went for $500; two tickets and a train ride and a night at the team hotel in Philadelphia went for $3,200 and two Super Bowl tickets fetched $6,000.

. . . Everyone who spoke to the crowd, including current players and former players, said the same thing to owner Dan Snyder.

''Thank you for bringing Joe Gibbs back.'' It's clear the crowd agreed with them, giving Snyder his warmest ovation since buying the team in 1999.

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