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SUPER BOWL XXII : WASHINGTON REDSKINS vs. DENVER BRONCOS : Notebook : Will Religion Bring the Teams Together on Eve of the Game?

January 28, 1988|BILL PLASCHKE | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — With little to argue about here other than what Dexter Manley listens to on his yellow head phones, the Super Bowl talk Wednesday turned to religion.

For the first time in this event's 22-year history, the opposing teams will be brought together on the eve of the game for an interdenominational chapel service.

They will gather to hear talks from Charles Swindoll, the radio preacher, and Bob Horner, not the baseball player. They will listen to tunes from the Winans, four brothers, and Candi Staton, one gospel singer.

The Broncos and Redskins. Same room. Same rows of chairs. Same two hours.

Said Redskin tackle Mark May: "Saturday night I'll be in my usual place--my room. If the coaches want to do it, that's fine. I'm not going to be there. I don't want to see the enemy until Sunday. I'm not going to sit down and pat the enemy's back the night before we go to war."

Said Bronco punter Mike Horan: "I don't think many people will be there. I think it's pretty unusual to try to bring both teams together."

Juicy stuff. Only one catch.

The coaches aren't requiring the players to be there. And once there, they won't even be required to sit near each other.

Turns out, the event is open to the public, free of charge. And the Bahia hotel 'chapel' is big enough to hold 1,200, which is what the people at the Bahia are expecting.

"I think there's been a little miscommunication here," said Washington Coach Joe Gibbs, who proposed the Super Bowl chapel idea to friend and Bronco Coach Dan Reeves six weeks ago. "This is not some private thing where the players are going to be sitting together. There will be a lot of other people there."

Said Reeves: "I don't think a lot of players will be there. I don't see a lot of them changing their routines for it."

Said Redskin guard R.C. Thielemann: "God is not going to stop the violence that is going to take place out there on Sunday anyway."

You can always count on a little Super Bowl paranoia.

In the Redskins' first workout here Wednesday, at the University of San Diego, Gibbs had most players change their usual jersey numbers. He also ran 12- and 13-man alignments on offense, all for the benefit of spies.

"It was my idea to change the jerseys," Gibbs said. "We do that every now and then when we are practicing some place other than home. We do that just from a security standpoint. I may do it all week. We don't know. We haven't done it that often but we do it from time to time, especially, when a place is kind of open like it is here."

Security problems did arise during the Bronco practice when a homeowner near San Diego State, where the team is working out, stood on his roof with a video camera.

Mark Lewis, a security specialist traveling with the Broncos, convinced the resident to stop filming. Lewis was aided by campus police.

Also, about a dozen San Diego State students watched practice from a nearby hill. Lewis said more green screening material would be installed before today's workout.

After practice, Reeves announced that rookie receiver Ricky Nattiel would start instead of Vance Johnson, who has been out with a groin injury. "I think Vance will be ready, but he hasn't played in approximately three weeks. So I think Ricky would be better to start the ball game."

Redskin reserve player Brian Davis, who jokes that he's a rarity--a white cornerback in the NFL--claims the secrets of his speed can be found in his long locks of hair.

"It's the Sampson theory," Davis explained.

Davis, a rookie from Nebraska, said that his college coach, Tom Osborne, constantly nagged him to get a haircut.

"He said I couldn't be a captain for the Oklahoma game unless I got it cut," Davis said. "He started on me early in the week. I finally got a trim on Friday."

Osborne let Davis keep his earring.

Gibbs said that he had given serious thought to assigning one player the task of shadowing Bronco quarterback John Elway Sunday.

"A lot of teams have used that strategy against Denver," Gibbs said. "That might work if you've got the right guy chasing Elway, a guy who is fast enough to keep up with him. The trouble is, it takes away from your pass rush and it takes away from your pass coverage. It leaves you a man short.

"So it's a trade-off, and we have to decide whether it's worth the risk involved."

While acknowledging that Elway's speed and elusiveness give the Bronco offense an extra dimension, Gibbs doesn't agree with those who claim that today's quarterback must be a runner.

"Sure, Elway drives you crazy, and so does Randall Cunningham of Philadelphia," Gibbs said. "But I think you can win with a quarterback who can't run a lick. Winning quarterbacks come in many different packages.

"Joe Montana wasn't drafted until the third round. Neither was Joe Theismann. Dan Fouts didn't go until the fourth round. All three of them became great quarterbacks. You can't draw a blueprint for quarterbacks. There are too many intangibles."

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