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News & Notes: Competition Heats Up In NFC East

Joe Gibbs stood in the FedExField press conference room last Sunday, moments after the Redskins head beaten the San Francisco 49ers 52-17, and watched the final minutes of the Philadelphia Eagles- San Diego Chargers game unfold.

It looked as if San Diego would pull out a win.

Then, suddenly, the Eagles blocked a field goal attempt and returned it for a touchdown. Philadelphia won 20-17.

Gibbs went off to dinner to celebrate his team's big win.

In the late games, he noticed early on that the Dallas Cowboys were beating the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos had a lead in its game against the New York Giants.

After dinner, Gibbs learned that Seahawks and Giants both had miraculously come back to win.

Gibbs' reaction to all of the late-game heroics?

The NFC East is back, baby.

It's back to when all four teams were playoff contenders almost every season, during the 1980s and early '90s.

It's back to when NFC East games were hard-fought, bruising battles.

"I told our guys, 'This is it. This is the NFC East. You'll be black and blue when you come out of this thing,'" Gibbs said. "It's just the way I remember it. All four teams are very physical and play extremely hard. It's great for fans. It's not so great for the teams that are in it. Every week, it's big-time football."

Gibbs makes sure to keep it all in perspective, though.

"We're only six games into this, so for me it's always what comes next," he said. "That's where I always find myself. We haven't done anything yet."

This Sunday, of course, the Redskins travel to New York to take on the Giants.

The Redskins, Giants and Eagles are tied for first at 4-2 and the Cowboys are a half-game back at 4-3.

The Redskins' players know what's at stake.

"It's a very important game because we're fighting for the lead," wide receiver Santana Moss said. "The Giants have been in every game they've played. We know we have to prepare hard this week."

Added defensive end Renaldo Wynn: "This game is huge. We're both fighting for that No. 1 spot in the division."

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has also seen the NFC East rivalries up close and personal. During the 1980s and early '90s, he coached as an assistant with the Giants and Bill Parcells. Now he's back as head coach of the Giants--while Parcells is head coach of the Cowboys.

Coughlin suggested it was too soon to make any sweeping statements about the NFC East. And this year, it appears to be more vital than ever.

"It's such a highly competitive division," Coughlin told Washington, D.C., reporters on Wednesday. "I think the overall records in the division represent that. But I think you have to move on a little bit further in the season before you can say that the NFC East is the best division. At this point in time, though, it's extremely competitive."

Like Gibbs, Coughlin has stressed to his players the importance of winning games against NFC East foes.

Said quarterback Eli Manning: "He talks about it. Everyone watches how everybody is doing and what's happening. He talks about how divisional games are important and that you have to be ready for them."


As most reporters know, and as many fans are discovering by watching video of press conferences on TV, coaches and players tend to often speak in sports cliches.

Every so often, though, an answer to a reporters' question makes you stop and think. Such was the case earlier this week when Gibbs was asked about the confidence level of his players.

"Teams are a lot like people," Gibbs said. "There are times when they're down and depressed and you have to find a way to get them up because they're depressed. There's a time when a team can lose confidence. You can see it in how they play. And then there's time when they're overconfident. They're cocky. You have to find a way to way to minimize that.

"This group is very good at being ready and paying attention to business--like they did against the 49ers. They know what's at stake. They're smart that way.

"I'd say, when you're playing well, it brings confidence. What you don't want is cockiness, because there's nothing at this level that should ever bring that. In sports, it's never been that way for me. There is always somebody ready to give you a knuckle sandwich."


The Redskins signed defensive lineman Lynn McGruder to the practice squad on Tuesday.

McGruder is a 6-2, 302-pound rookie defensive tackle who played his college ball at Oklahoma. He signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent after the 2005 NFL Draft, but was released at the close of training camp. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts, but was released before the start of the regular season.

At Oklahoma, McGruder played in 37 games with 11 starts last season. He earned All-Big 12 honorable mention by the coaches and the Associated Press in 2004, when he totaled 24 tackles, on sack and two passes defended. He is a native of Las Vegas.

To make room for McGruder, the Redskins released linebacker Nick McNiel.


As everyone around Redskins Park knows, Renaldo Wynn is a huge fan of the Chicago White Sox.

With the White Sox holding a 3-0 edge over the Houston Astros in the World Series, is Wynn ready to celebrate?

Not yet. He remembers what happened last year when the New York Yankees had a 3-0 series lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

"I don't want to celebrate too soon," he said on Wednesday. "It's not over."

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