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'Nervous' Gibbs Ready For Year 2

Joe Gibbs walked slowly off the practice field, toward a crew of reporters assembled at the back of Redskins Park.

Upon his arrival, the reporters' questions focused on injuries to Ryan Clark and Taylor Jacobs, squaring off against the Chicago Bears in Week 1, expected playing time for LaVar Arrington and Carlos Rogers, and his expectations for quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Not one question about Joe Gibbs himself. And that's just the way he wants it.

Gibbs is in Year 2 of his return to the organization he helped win three Super Bowl championships from 1981-93. Last year's 6-10 finish seems to have diminished the media's focus on the legendary head coach.

Gibbs hasn't changed, though. He's still singularly focused on winning football games. He's as nervous about Sunday's season opener as he was last year in Year 1.

"I don't know if I show it or not, but I'm just as nervous," Gibbs said. "I think it's going to be a huge game for us."

He's not the only one who's nervous. Said assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel, one of Gibbs' long-time assistants: "You're always nervous. If you don't have jitters, it's probably time to retire. We're all the same way. We want to win. This is our time, this is our football team. We're nervous until the final gun."

Gibbs is accustomed to pressure, having coached football for more than 20 years. He has guided his North Carolina-based NASCAR racing business to numerous victories.

So he's accustomed to the spotlight, even if it has abated somewhat this year.

As soon as the Redskins start to win consistently again, Gibbs knows the spotlight will return.

"For me personally, the pressure of this job is getting the franchise back to a standpoint where we are winning games [consistently] again," he said. "The reality hits you and it is this: It's not just me and my family, it's the coaches that you go out and persuade to come here. It's [owner] Dan [Snyder], who stepped out there and gambled to make me the head coach. Then you have the scouting department-we have some real talent there. Then you go to the front office and the fans.

"What happens to you as a coach is that you lose football games and you feel like you are letting people down. That's the hardest part for me."

Gibbs said that the last 18 months has been a learning experience, one that he expects will continue as long as he remains head coach.

"I went into it the first year wide-eyed, and then we went into all of the contracts," Gibbs said. "I'm on vacation and I get these phone calls, and I expect that because it's a pro football team. I learned a lot. Every year, I try to make it a learning experience.

"The good thing is that for me, the coaching staff and the players, it's determined on the field. Winning and losing determines what people perceive, and I like that, because there will be no guessing."

So what about this year? Will there be more wins than last year's 6-10 finish?

Gibbs remains leery of predictions, just as he was during his first tenure as Redskins head coach.

"I am probably the last one to make predictions," he said. "You never know what is going to happen. It's always so hard in the NFL. Teams go from the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top."

Gibbs is hoping that his 2005 Redskins go from the bottom to the top. There are some new faces this season. In Year 2, he jettisoned such players as wide receivers Laveranues Coles, Rod Gardner and Darnierien McCants and running back Chad Morton.

In their place, Gibbs believes he has obtained more of his type of players: Santana Moss, David Patten, Antonio Brown, to name a few. These are athletes with a strong work ethic and high character. In other words, true Redskins.

Asked about what it takes to earn Gibbs' trust, wide receiver James Thrash said, "If you're satisfied, you'll get out of the door real quick. You'll be finished. Everyday you have to come out here and be real hungry. Every practice, I try to come out here and outwork everyone. I try to prove my worth and prove that I belong on this team."

Added Patrick Ramsey: "He is very straightforward. He has his style and you know where you stand with him. He doesn't beat around the bush at all. That's one of the things that I respect about him."

In Year 2 of Gibbs' return to the Redskins, he is convinced that he has more of his type of players on hand. He believes he is more prepared to win with those players and a committed coaching staff and front office.

Gibbs may not know for sure if his approach this time around will be successful. But if he does it any other way, he knows he won't be successful.

It's only a matter of time, whether the media notices or not.

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