'Skins look to cook rare bird They've never beaten Dallas on Thanksgiving

November 28, 1996|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

IRVING, Texas -- No Washington Redskins success story in any season would be complete without a chapter on the Dallas Cowboys.

Today at Texas Stadium at 4 p.m., a young and sometimes restless Redskins team hopes to spice up its 1996 chapter by beating Dallas for the first time in five tries on Thanksgiving Day.

Washington (8-4) arrived in Dallas last night amid reports that Emmitt Smith might sit out today to rest his right ankle for the final three regular-season games of the Cowboys (7-5).

Dallas coach Barry Switzer said yesterday that he might not make a final decision on Smith's playing status until pre-game warm-ups.

Switzer said doctors have told him only rest can cure the calcium deposits on Smith's ankle.

"But we have only four weeks left in the season and there's no time to rest," said Switzer, who took Smith out in the fourth quarter of last Sunday's 20-6 loss to the New York Giants. "If we don't make the playoffs, Emmitt will have all winter to rest. If Emmitt tells me he can go out there and cut up in there like the real Emmitt Smith, then I wouldn't hesitate to play him."

Switzer said he can't forget what happened to Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley, who is out after having back surgery two weeks ago.

"Charles Haley played when he shouldn't have and paid the price for it," said Switzer.

Normally one of the most accessible Cowboys, Smith declined to discuss Sunday's benching in any depth. Asked yesterday if he'd play today, he said: "I don't know."

Whatever decision Smith and Switzer make for the showdown with the Redskins, there is no question that this has been one of the calmer pre-game buildups to a Dallas-Washington meeting, despite its importance in the NFC East race.

Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman continued to lavish praise on Washington coach Norv Turner, who was Aikman's offensive coordinator at Dallas from 1991-93.

"Yes, I root for Norv," said Aikman. "We have a tremendous relationship professionally and personally and we maintain that relationship. He's an outstanding football coach. The selfish side of me hated to see him leave Dallas and go to an NFC team."

Switzer said the Redskins have the best offense in the league even though they are ranked 12th overall, tied for fourth in rushing with Buffalo and rated 20th in passing.

Those remarks from Switzer prompted a smile from Turner, who replied: "That's what Barry is supposed to say. I know you guys say all coaches are like that. But if I said something like that, I'd mean it."

Switzer didn't even seem too upset when he was asked if he had any problems with Aikman maintaining a close relationship with Turner.

"I never even thought about it," said Switzer. "You're telling me something I didn't know."

Maybe the buildup is mild is because both teams are coming off losses last week and don't have a lot of bragging to do.

Washington is in a 1-3 tailspin to start the second half of the season, losing two overtime games at RFK Stadium in the past three weeks.

The losses, to the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers, stung Turner and defensive coordinator Ron Lynn badly because the Redskins blew fourth- quarter leads and could have won both with one big play defensively.

The only consolation is that the Redskins have held on to first in the NFC East despite the slide.

But three straight road games beginning today and a regular season-ending rematch with Dallas at RFK Stadium do not present an easy road for a team that has some injury problems to deal with.

Defensive end Sterling Palmer will miss a second straight game today with a sore knee and starting strong safety Darryl Morrison is out with a neck injury.

Punter Matt Turk (pulled back muscle) and veteran cornerback Darrell Green (sprained ankle) are both expected to play.

Washington's hopes of bringing in 1990 Pro Bowler Jeff Cross for depth at defensive end lasted one day because Cross failed his physical exam Tuesday.

Cross was released six days ago by the Miami Dolphins after spending just three days with the team following a long stint on the team's physically-unable-to-perform list.

Also, the Redskins learned Tuesday that quarterbacks coach Cam Cameron will be leaving at the end of the season to take the head coaching job at Indiana University.

It hasn't been an easy week for Turner and Washington.

"It's time for us just to go out and win," said Redskins wide receiver Leslie Shepherd.

NOTES: Switzer received some advice yesterday for the Redskins game from former Dallas great and Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach.

Staubach said in a Dallas newspaper that Switzer should turn to Aikman's strong arm today to carry the team instead of relying on a banged-up Smith.

"You go to the guy [Aikman] who'll make sure you'll get it done when it counts," said Staubach. "I worry that [Ernie] Zampese [Dallas offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach] doesn't use him more. I mean, Boomer Esiason threw for 500 [actually 522] yards against Washington. That means I could throw for 300. Aikman could throw for 1,000 if they'd let him."

Pub Date: 11/28/96

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