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Gibbs Set for Return to Sidelines

When Joe Gibbs walks out onto FedExField on Sunday, fans will be undoubtedly be thrilled to see the Redskins' Hall of Fame coach back on the sidelines for a regular season game.

Gibbs? He'll be nervous, admittedly.

"It's obviously different when you come back like this," Gibbs said earlier this week. "You are more nervous. I think back to the first game we played, it's more of that feeling than the other years. The other years, we felt like we had won Super Bowls and there was a different feeling about playing the opener."

It's hard to believe that a coach with Gibbs' success would be nervous about anything--until you realize the months of hard work and preparation that have gone into this game and this season.

"You realize what is at stake and you want to get off to a good start," Gibbs said. "All of those things, plus you know you are up against Tampa Bay and their reputation. I think everybody can figure out what you are feeling."

Gibbs, who recorded a 124-60 record and a .674 winning percentage from 1981-92 as Redskins head coach, has said that he is normally reserved on the sidelines so that he can focus on calling plays.

That doesn't mean Gibbs coaches without emotion. It's just he tried to maintain a stoic façade on the sidelines.

"I'm always kind of amazed at people who say coaches aren't emotional on the sidelines," he said. "Normally, those are the people who are calling the plays because it's like taking a test. When you are taking a test, you don't find people jumping up and down or running and screaming. You are focused. You are intense in what you are doing. Then you get the label that you are not emotional.

"Most people who call plays, including Tom Landry and Bill Walsh, are pretty stoic, because you are standing their wondering, 'My gosh, what is going on here that is going to work? I have got a lot of stuff on here and none of it is going to work.'"

Of course, more often than not, Gibbs' play calls have worked. But the game has changed significantly since Gibbs last coached. For example, the shortened play clock could present a challenge because Gibbs has employed multiple shifts and formations in his offenses.

Gibbs said he would adjust his play-calling accordingly.

"To get the formation calls and to get your people in, because you are substituting, that's a big deal," he said. "To get all of that organized and to get the play called is something that you have to figure out."

Among the other changes? Using head-phones on the sidelines, challenging plays and the two-point conversion. The former could actually benefit Gibbs as he calls plays.

"We didn't have headphones the first go-around, but I wish we had," Gibbs said. "We used signals, and all of that stuff drives you crazy. Someone gets their signal, then you get two guys signaling and it just gets crazy. Now we have signaling as a backup system.

"I like this much better. I think it's quicker. I don't like the fact that they take time out between plays, but you have to be fast."

As for the two-point conversion and challenges, Gibbs said he would not have been in favor of implementing it.

"If I had been here, I would not have voted for it," he said. "All you're doing is putting in more things for the coaches to decide. Now we have challenges and two-point plays. I always voted against all of that. But I've been studying it all extremely hard and I think we have a plan there. When it comes time to make those decisions, I feel real comfortable about it. We have good people involved. We have a select group who will make decisions on challenges and we have a select group who will make decisions on two-point plays."

With that taken care of, with one more full-scale practice scheduled prior to Sunday's game, and with months of preparations behind him, the only thing that remains is the emotion.

Rest assured, there'll be plenty on Sunday. From fans, from players and from Gibbs himself.

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