HERNDON, Va. -- When the Washington Redskins were flying home after their last regular season game in Philadelphia 10 days ago, tight end John Brandes already was looking ahead to the playoffs.
"I told Charles Mann, 'I want it [Super Bowl] more than you do,' " Brandes said.
Mann replied, "No, you don't."
Brandes said he answered, "If you want it more than I do, we're in good shape."
Brandes quickly learned that the veterans who've done it in the past are as eager to get back to the Super Bowl as the players looking for their first one.
Six players -- offensive linemen Jeff Bostic, Joe Jacoby and Rus Grimm, linebacker Monte Coleman, tight end Don Warren and wide receiver Art Monk -- have been on the team since Joe Gibbs became head coach in 1981 and took the team to three Super Bowls.
Two others, cornerback Darrell Green and Mann, were drafted in 1983 and have played in two. Linebacker Matt Millen, who played in three for the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers, is the other player on the squad with more than one ring.
Since the Los Angeles Raiders and the Chicago Bears were eliminated last week, the Redskins are the only team left in the NFC that has gone to the Super Bowl in the last decade. The Falcons and the Detroit Lions never have done it, and the Dallas Cowboys haven't done it since 1978.
The Redskins think the experience of their veterans will help them in the playoffs.
"They've been in pressure games and they know what it takes," Gibbs said. "They know how hard it is and how rare it is. It's a rare experience."
Wayne Sevier, the special teams' coach, said, "It's a lot tougher when you've never been there before, and you're trying to convince your players you can do it."
The veterans also know this could well be their last shot. Coleman said he thinks about it all the time.
"It's not etched in stone during your career that you're going to be in at least one," he said. "There are some legends, some Hall of Famers [O.J. Simpson is one] who've never done it, so any time you get that opportunity to knock at the door, you've got to knock at it hard. I've been blessed. If we make it, it'll be four games I've played in."
Coleman said he provides leadership by example.
"I think a leader isn't someone who calls himself a leader," he said. "I don't consider myself a leader, I don't know if I am a leader on this team, but I think I have a work ethic that they [young players] can look up to."
A year ago, Coleman was one of the older players who started holding players'-only meetings the night before a game to set the right tone.
"They're just for the players, but what we're stressing is, 'don't beat ourselves,' " he said.
Middleton, one of the younger players who has learned from the veterans, said, "Our basic philosophy is play hard and smart and let the rest take care of it. Don't be the guy who gets caught not doing his part."
Green said the players learn the playoffs are a different experience.
"You really have to expect anything. You have to expect tipped ball and unorthodox things happening. That's just what happens in the playoffs. Anything happens. It's a different game, a different atmosphere. Normal things become abnormal and abnormal things become normal. It's a great thing to be in," he said.
Green said he remembers the message that Richie Petitbon, the assistant coach who runs the defense, gave him before his first regular-season game in 1983 when he was set to cover Drew Pearson of the Cowboys.
"He said, 'I'm not so concerned about you covering Drew Pearson. What I'm concerned about is that I want you to stay relaxed. I said, 'what do you mean?' He said, 'You haven't played in a real game yet.' When I got in there, I knew what he was talking about. It was a different level."
L The playoffs and the Super Bowl are a different level, too.
"I can't give a rookie or a young guy anything, but I can point toward it and when he gets there, he'll feel it, he'll understand. More of us are familiar with the feeling," Green said.
All the Redskins hope to get that feeling in the next three weeks.
NOTES: Green missed practice after dropping a weight on his right big toe yesterday. X-rays were negative and he expects to be ready to practice today. . . . Millen missed practice with the flu. . . . As usual, Gibbs spent New Year's Eve at Redskin Park preparing for the game. He said his wife said she'd stop by to help him ring in the New Year.