Redskins left to play for pride in RFK finale Team's 1-6 flop takes shine off matchup with Cowboys

December 22, 1996|By BILL FREE | BILL FREE,SUN STAFF

It could have been a spectacular day for the Washington Redskins.

They could have ridden out of RFK Stadium for the last time with a victory over the hated Dallas Cowboys, an NFC East title and a possible first-round bye in the playoffs.

But Norv Turner's team pulled off one of the biggest flops in NFL history, losing six of seven games to fall to 8-7 and be eliminated from postseason contention before today's finale against the Cowboys (10-5) at 4 p.m.

That collapse seemed nearly impossible for a team that was 7-1 in the first half of the season and had won seven straight.

Now the Washington players are left with nothing much to play for but pride, one last memory of RFK and Redskins tradition against Dallas.

They still can salvage a 9-7 record, but it would be tarnished by a 2-6 second half.

Even the always upbeat cornerback Darrell Green seemed down over the turn of events that rendered this Dallas game far less meaningful.

"I wish we had clinched the division by now and this could have been a true celebration," said Green, who is in his 14th season with the Redskins. "It leaves a little bad taste in your mouth. But it's important to finish the season with a win and continue the team's improvement over the last three years. You know, three to six nine [victories]."

Green has fond memories of RFK, where as a rookie in 1983 he caught Tony Dorsett from behind in a memorable Monday night season opener against the Cowboys.

"RFK is all about grass, mud and the fans," said the five-time Pro Bowl player. "I have nothing bad to say about it. Can you imagine a guy from little Texas A&I getting a chance to play at RFK in his first game? I welcome this exciting ending to a disappointing year."

Green said he never thought about leaving RFK for a new stadium until the final decision was made to move.

"That isn't the kind of thing you think about as a player," he said. "I know the day will be emotional long before the end of the game. This is a no-brainier. Everybody and his dog will want to be here. People will bring sledgehammers to take a part of the stadium with them."

Green isn't buying into the notion that the team's younger players won't be affected by the afternoon's emotions.

"They'll get it," he said. "They aren't too young to have seen videos about RFK and its history."

One of those young guys is third-year quarterback Gus Frerotte, 25.

"I won't forget coming out of the locker room and heading up those steps through the dugout to the field," said Frerotte. "It's the only steps I've gone up like that without having a bat and glove in my hand."

However, no one quite put RFK in the same kind of perspective as did former Redskins Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Theismann.

"When I stepped on the field at RFK," he said, "it was just like sitting down in a big easy chair in my living room because I had my family around me."

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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