- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 12, 2007

Two of their first three games are against division foes. They have just three days rest to prepare for the NFC champions and play five of seven games on the road in one stretch. And the bye week is too early.

In short, there was plenty for Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs to dislike about the team’s 2007 schedule released yesterday.

“I’m sure everybody across the NFL is singing the blues about their schedule,” said Gibbs, whose 16th season as Washington’s coach, the fourth of his second tenure, starts Sept. 9 at home against Miami. “The things you always look at are … any time you’ve got to play Monday night or Thursday. Playing on Monday night is good for the players and good for the fans, but it’s not very good for the coaches.”

The Monday night game is at NFC East champion Philadelphia Sept. 17, which sets up a short week for the Sept. 23 test against the division rival New York Giants. The Thursday game, the Redskins’ first since the 2003 opener, is Dec. 6 against Super Bowl runner-up Chicago and gives them nine days rest for the Dec. 16 rematch at the Giants.

“The second thing I always look at is when you play your division opponents, and we’ve got the Eagles and the Giants in Weeks 2 and 3,” Gibbs said. “And we play the Giants and the [Dallas] Cowboys late.”

The Dec. 30 home finale against the Cowboys completes a second half of the season that includes seven conference games, four in the division. The exception is Dec. 2 against Buffalo, which will be a grudge match for assistant head coach Gregg Williams, who was fired as the Bills’ coach before coming to Washington in 2004.

That game will also be the first for Redskins linebacker London Fletcher and Bills guard Derrick Dockery against their old teams since they switched sides last month.

The bye week comes after the Sept. 23 visit from the Giants.

“You would [like to] put the bye week somewhere in the middle of your schedule, but I’ll be willing to say that when we get to the bye week, I’ll be thrilled,” Gibbs said. “It’s just that you don’t like 13 straight games after that.”

The Hall of Fame coach has made the playoffs after all four of his 2-0 starts — as happened in the surprising 10-6 season of 2005 — but is just 1-for-4 after 0-2 starts, as was the case during his career-worst 5-11 2006 season.

“It will be important for us to start totally different than we did last year,” Gibbs said. “We got off to a horrible start in preseason [too] and never seemed to get out of the wrong groove.”

The only trips out of the Eastern time zone — to Green Bay Oct. 14, to Dallas Nov. 18 and to Minnesota Dec. 23 — aren’t arduous. The Oct. 28 visit to New England, where the Patriots were 31-6 the past four years, isn’t too appealing. The remaining road game is Nov. 25 at Tampa Bay, Washington’s fourth visit there in three years.

Washington’s other home games are against long-downtrodden Detroit Oct. 7 and Arizona — coached by ex-Gibbs player Ken Whisenhunt — Oct. 21 and the rematch with the Eagles Nov. 11.

Notes — Veteran players, who for the first time under Gibbs haven’t been required to work out at Redskin Park beginning in mid-March, must report May 8 for the start of OTA days, which run until minicamp June 15-17. …

Gibbs strongly endorsed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s crackdown on player misbehavior off the field.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Gibbs said. “We were at a point where we needed to do something. It does send a message. Getting to play in the NFL is a privilege and you need to treat it as such. It’s good for the sport, good for the league. And if you lay down tough standards, you’re probably going to help save somebody, too.” …

LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell, who might go first overall to Oakland in the April 28 draft, visited Redskin Park yesterday.

Gibbs said the Redskins are doing their “due diligence” by welcoming all the expected first-round picks to Washington this month. The coach said despite trade talks, he figures the Redskins will use their own selection at No. 6 overall.

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