Redskins: no room for gloom Cardinals game key to playoff run

November 29, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- A year ago, the Washington Redskins were 11-0 and cruising toward the Super Bowl.

They're now 6-5 and trying to figure out how to score a touchdown.

Only one thing hasn't changed. The Redskins have virtually the same low-key attitude they had a year ago. Win or lose, the Redskins locker room is the dullest place in the NFL.

They didn't gloat when they won, and they're not doing any bad-mouthing now that they're losing.

The Redskins leave the mutinies and controversies to other teams. They have the quiet confidence of a team that has survived adversity in the past and expects to survive it again.

That's the attitude they'll take into RFK Stadium today, when they play the Phoenix Cardinals in a game they must win if they're to keep their hopes of making the playoffs alive.

The tone is set by coach Joe Gibbs, who has learned to cope with the ups and downs.

"The only thing that I guess is good as you get a little older [he turned 52 on Wednesday] is that you have these experiences behind you and you can kind of look back and say, 'I know in the past we've [almost] come out of every single one of them,' " Gibbs said. "Sometimes, they're bitter and hard, and in 1988 [a 7-9 season] we didn't get out of it, but even that year seemed to make us a better football team, make us better coaches. You have the confidence of knowing that in the past we've come out of these dips and there's been some great things on the other side."

Gibbs also likes the attitude of his players.

"There's nobody that I think is happy. Everybody feels awful," he said. "If I sensed everybody was fat and happy, I'd be yelling. I don't sense any of that. Our players have great character, and they're mad because we're not doing well."

Maybe it comes from listening to Gibbs, who usually repeats the same speeches in public that he gives to the players in private, but the Redskins are looking at these tough times as an opportunity.

Cornerback Darrell Green, who expects to start for the first time since he broke his forearm in Week 2, echoes those sentiments.

"The opportunity we have before us [is a chance] to get greater gifts in pressing through this than there is the negative in not doing it. It's kind of almost set that, '[We're] not going to win any more games,' so the opportunity is greater than it's been in a long time," he said.

BTC Green said he could have sat out the season with his broken forearm, but he was eager to come back.

"It's kind of like the captain goes down with the ship. If we're going down, I want to be a part of going down. There's no victory in saying, 'At least, I didn't play.' I'm not the savior or anything, but I'm just doing what I do," Green said.

The question now is whether the Redskins are still good enough to do it. They'll get Green and Jim Lachey back today, but they'll still have their offensive line du jour because they won't know whether Mark Schlereth and Ed Simmons can play. Tight end Don Warren went on the injured reserve list yesterday, and defensive tackle Eric Williams and cornerback A. J. Johnson are out.

That's why this game will be a good gauge of where the Redskins are. The past two weeks they weren't healthy enough to beat a pair of playoff-bound teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the New Orleans Saints, on the road.

The Phoenix Cardinals at home coming off a Monday night game are a different story. The Redskins are 19-2 in Sunday games coming off Monday night games under Gibbs. Even though they blew the first game in Phoenix, 27-24, they haven't lost to the Cardinals at home since 1978 and have won 14 of the past 16 and 29 of the past 35 against the Cardinals.

The Cardinals even have their own injury problems. Their two best pass rushers, Ken Harvey and Freddie Joe Nunn, are injured. So is their starting quarterback, Chris Chandler, and their running back, Johnny Johnson, is coming off a groin injury.

The Redskins also have more at stake. The 3-8 Cardinals are playing for pride. The Redskins are still alive in the playoff battle.

"I was talking to [assistant coaches] Rod [Dowhower] and Jim [Hanifan] and they said, 'Hey, Joe, we've been in a lot of places where right now it was all over. We were dead.' It's fun knowing you're still in it. Who knows, as long as there's hope, there's a place in there for a miracle," Gibbs said.

If the Redskins are going to pull off a miracle finish, they have to start with a victory today.

NOTES: To make room for Lachey and TE James Jenkins, who were brought back from injured reserve yesterday, the Redskins shelved Warren (shoulder) and released OL Tom Myslinski. They now have 12 players on IR, and none can come back before the playoffs unless they clear waivers because the Redskins have used their five free regular-season moves.

Redskins-Cardinals today

Site: RFK Stadium, Washington.

Time: 1 p.m.

TV: Channels 11, 9

Radio: WBAL (1090 AM), WTEM (570 AM)

Line: Redskins by 9 1/2

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