Washington -- When Art Monk talks, the Washington Redskins listen.
They certainly did when he called a team meeting the night before a game late last year when the team was struggling.
"I think that fired up the whole team." tight end Ron Middleton said. "That was a big inspiration to me. The guy doesn't talk much, but when he has something to say. it's profound."
Wide receiver Gary Clark said: "He said he hadn't been making the plays he thought he should be making and the rest of us hadn't been making the plays we knew we could make. We stayed focused the rest of the year."
Offensive tackle Jim Lachey said: "He talked about rededicating himself to the season if he weren't dedicated enough. It was big boost for the whole team."
The stature that Art Monk has as a player and a person on the Washington team is illustrated by how well the players remember his heart-to-heart talk the night before the Miami Dolphins' game last year. when the Redskins had lost two of their previous three games and were 6-5.
Since Monk speaks so infrequently. his words carry a lot of weight. It's probably not a coincidence the Redskins won four of their last five games to finish 10-6.
"I bet I can count on both hands the number of words I've heard him say in the three years that I've been here," Middleton said.
"I can talk, now," Monk replied as he grinned.
"When I really feel like I have something to say or something's really important and no one has touched on it, I'll stand up and say something. We were struggling and we really needed to get into the play-offs and we couldn't lose any more games. It was a time where we either did it or we were going to be home for Christmas. I thought it was important for us to realize that."
It's now a ritual for the club to have a players-only team meeting before each game, but Monk usually doesn't have to say anything. He's made his point.
He now does his talking on the field, although he'll have to do a lot of talking after today's game.
That's the one thing he won't enjoy about the milestone he's likely to reach today against the Cleveland Browns at RFK Stadium.
Monk goes into the game with 749 career catches, one behind Charlie Joiner, who's second on the all-time NFL list with 750 catches. Steve Largent leads with 819.
His second catch today will move him into second place, and the game will likely be stopped so the ball can be presented to him.
He's not looking forward to that.
"I've thought about that," he said. "I'd rather have the game keep going on. It's a distraction to me, I guess. I'm not much on being the center of attention and that sort of thing. I can live without it."
Even Bill Belichick, coach of the Cleveland Browns, said he has no objection to stopping the game to honor Monk.
Monk has caught more passes (89) against the New York Giants than any other team, and Belichick was an assistant coach with the Giants before he got the Browns' job this year.
"It'd be fitting if he catches two passes against us because you can tell him he'd probably be 17th on the list if he hadn't been able to play against me in all those games," Belichick said. "I moved him up there about 15 notches. I think he's one of the great receivers ever to play the game. I wish the damn guy would retire, and I told him that in the pre-season. The sooner, the better for me."
Monk, in his 12th season at age 33. says he's not as fast as he once was, but few people have noticed his slowing down. In any case, he's not likely to retire in the near future.
"When I don't have the desire and I lose the excitement of the game, it'll be time to go, unless they tell me sooner," Monk said.
Not that the Redskins plan to do that any time soon.
As good as Monk is a player, he may be a better person.
"It's not often you get the whole package," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "There's parts missing in all of us. It would have been great if I could have run a 4.4, but I ran 5.6, but Art got it all. Art got in every line up front. Normally, you get in the smart line and you miss the speed or something. Art got it all. He must have cheated."
Monk's work habits and dedication are the talk of the team. He works out year around and sees a massage therapist, a chiropractor, an osteopath and a dietitian to keep himself in top shape.
Clark marvels that Monk goes to bed at 9:30 p.m. and eats all the right foods.
"He's just a good man, an ideal role model, a great husband, a great father. He's very serious about his family (Monk and his wife, Desiree, have three children], and a lot of people respect that," Clark said. "You never hear him curse or swear. You get a 'darn' every now and then, a shoot.'
For a player with his numbers, Monk doesn't get much recognition around the country. That's because he's not flashy and he rarely did interviews before this season when the Redskins public relations staff convinced him that his pursuit of the record was too big a story for him to hide from.
"I'm not a Jerry Rice or a guy who makes a lot of spectacular plays down the field," Monk said. "It's probably the guys I've played with over the years who can really appreciate what I've done."
Only his teammates know what the record means to him. Monk never will admit it.
"I think he's trying to be low-key about it, but I think he's realty excited about it." Clark said.
Clark certainly is. "It's a big thrill even seeing it. It's a bit of history." he said.
Clark has told Monk that if he doesn't want the game ball, he'll take it.
Showing he has a sense of humor, Monk declined.
"He might sell it," Monk said wltl a smile.