Mark Rypien calls for healing, group hugs
"Gosh," Mark Rypien said Monday night, shortly after he arrived back in the D.C. area. "I just hope we can all get together, have a big group hug at the 50-yard line and get this thing back on track."
And you know what? It was sort of nice to hear an ex-player talking peace and reconciliation. Because eventually, the pitchforks and arm bands will be packed away into some musty museum, and we'll need voices like Rypien's to help stitch things back together.
It goes without saying that the annotated version of this season will be messy with the comments of ex-Skins, from Arrington to Mitchell to Walker to Theismann to Riggins to Manley to Schlereth to Gannon to Sonny and Sam.
Rypien, it turns out, can offer a brief respite from the Burgundy Revolution stuff. The quarterback was in town this week for a charity event at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, but he spends most of his time in Spokane, thousands of miles from the noisy unrest. A certain former Redskins Super Bowl MVP hasn't been shy about machine-gunning lighter fluid toward the flames, and to each his own. But Rypien, another of the franchise's Super Bowl MVPs, made it clear that he wouldn't be accusing anyone of, you know, dark heartedness.
"I'm gonna take the Fifth on taking shots at guys," he told me. "I think enough has probably been said already. I think some healing needs to be going on, and we need to get back to guys playing football, get back to supporting our guys."
And look, the people I talk to mostly date from a certain era of Redskins fandom; they're in their 20s or 30s or 40s, and they were still of an impressionable age for at least one of the victory parades. That kind of thing is hard to forget, and ditto for Rypien. That's why, after playing for four other franchises and then moving back to the other Washington, he still talks about this current team as "we."
"We're all a family in this thing," he explained, when I asked why so many of his mates have been so outspoken. "As former players, we still love and appreciate the effort that players are putting in. We don't want to see them the way they are, because we value those Redskins colors and what it means to put on that uniform. I played with other teams, but the Redskins are it. That's it for me. That's where my loyalties are, where they always will be."
(Rypien, I should note, was in town with Pizzas 4 Patriots and Uno Chicago Grill to deliver pizzas to wounded veterans and to announce plans to deliver thousands of pizzas to troops on Super Bowl Sunday.
"Talking to some of my buddies who have served in the military, the one thing they miss is a cold beer and pizza," he explained. "The simple things you take for granted being over here is one of the luxuries they don't get over there.")
Anyhow, Rypien said maybe the team could do more to involve some of these names from the past. He said he hears more frequently from the alumni groups for some of the teams he briefly suited up for than from the Redskins. He remembers Joe Gibbs regularly inviting distinguished alumni to visit the team, and remembers being affected by the experience.
"It was kind of nice to see them and know that gosh, this was a big part of history we're diving into," he said. "I always loved seeing Sonny, seeing Billy, seeing Joe come around. Those guys paved the way. We were going out to play, but just to have them around, knowing that hey, they did play at a high level, and we were expected to carry that torch and play at the same level."
(Rypien didn't offer any specific suggestions for how the Redskins could improve. But when I asked about the offensive line during the Bandwagon year, when Skins QBs were sacked just nine times, he made a few things clear.
"Ninety-nine percent of quarterbacks out there will tell you, you're only as good as the guys up front," Rypien said. "I would never say anything negative about Jason and his play, because they've had the injury bug up front, they have guys not playing to the level. When Jim Lachey was removed from our lineup, when Mo Elewonibi is playing against some of the best rush ends in football, we're not gonna have a very good day on Sunday. Let's not sugarcoat it. Let's say it what it is. We're not gonna be very good running the football or throwing the football when Jim Lachey, one of the best left tackles in football, isn't in the game. Everyone's a professional, everyone wants to be good, but if they're not playing at all cylanders and playing well, you're not gonna be that good offensively. As a quarterback, you're only as good as how they are and how they play. Y.A. Tittle, Sammy Baugh, Sonny Jurgensen, Billy Kilmer, Doug Williams, Joe Theismann, myself, anyone's that's put on a Redskins uniform is not gonna be very good if your line's struggling.")
He said he understands that fans and ex-players want a return to the glory days, and he said he understands that expectations are just different around here.
"We knew that anything other than going to the playoffs wasn't good enough; we got kind of spoiled through that," he said. "You know, [fans] want those years back. They want those winning ways back. You get to a point where anything outside of an NFC hampionship game or a Super Bowl and you feel like you almost failed. They expect that every year."
But he just asks for everyone to take a few steps away from the vortex of despair. Current players, he said, are trying; they want to win and love the game. Rypien said he thinks Daniel Snyder is a good owner and also wants to win. But his larger point is that we all need to get along.
"I'm sad to see where this thing has evolved to; let's put all the bad blood and things everyone has to say behind us, and move on to get this thing together," he told me. "I love the fact that people are so passionate. I mean, even in a negative way, people are passionate about wanting this team to do well, and I think that's great. Let's just find a way to cure this thing and get moving forward again."
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