National spotlight pumps up Redskins Cowboys raise stakes for showcase appearance

October 13, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Norv Turner is a conservative, low-key, play-them-one-game-at-a-time coach who rarely ever gushes.

But a "Monday Night Football" meeting with the Dallas Cowboys is the ultimate regular-season high for Turner and his Washington Redskins.

So Turner allowed himself the luxury of gushing about tonight's game against the Cowboys.

"Every one of our players grew up watching 'Monday Night Football,' so you know how special it is to them. You have Hank [Williams Jr.] singing and the whole country watching you play. For 34 of our players it will be the first time they have ever played on Monday night."

Top Redskins starters such as Gus Frerotte, Michael Westbrook, Tre Johnson, Rich Owens and Derrick Smith will all be making their debuts on "Monday Night Football."

It also will be Turner's first Monday night appearance as a head coach. He was the Dallas Cowboys' offensive coordinator from 1991 to 1993 for several Monday night games.

It will also be the first Monday night game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium and it comes against the Redskins' most-hated rival.

The Cowboys would love to have the honor of handing Washington its first loss at the new stadium after victories over Arizona and Jacksonville.

Adding to the scenario is the battle for first place in the NFC East between teams coming off losses that dropped their records to 3-2.

"There's a certain excitement and experience about playing on Monday night because it is the only game played in the NFL that night," Turner said. "And it's only fitting that we'll be playing the Dallas Cowboys."

Although Turner enjoys playing Dallas twice a year and is 3-3 against the Cowboys, the game does present him with some unhappy statistics.

Under Turner, Washington is 0-7 the week before playing Dallas and 0-5 the week after.

Turner said last week he doesn't put much stock in the 0-7 record before meeting Dallas.

"The first year [1994], we only won three games, so we lost games before a lot of them," he said.

Starting Washington tight end Jamie Asher is another player who will be lining up for the first time for a Monday night game and he admits to being excited about it.

Asher may have tipped off just how much he and some of the Redskins have been looking forward to tonight's game when he said, "I called my mom a couple of weeks ago and told her I was going to be playing on 'Monday Night Football' and she was excited."

Veteran Redskins kick returner and running back Brian Mitchell said there is no mystery to tonight's game.

"Everybody in the nation will be watching us and they'll either see us play well or stink it up," he said. "We have to keep it a game, but it will be fun to crank it up. If we go in and play the way we're capable of, we'll be OK. We can't go in half-stepping."

Left guard Joe Patton said the offensive line has to bounce back from a poor performance in last week's 24-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"We have to find a way to get Terry Allen some yards [he was limited to 30 against the Eagles] and we have to give Gus some protection," Patton said. "If we don't do our job, then Gus can't do his. Hopefully, that loss jogged our minds."

Certainly the Washington coaching staff has done its best this week to send subtle messages to its players.

Like the sign that was posted over the steps leading from the practice field at Redskin Park in Ashburn, Va., to the meeting rooms upstairs.

"You Can Do Better Than Your Supposed Best," said the sign, which had the name of Jack Kent Cooke, the late Redskins owner, under it.

For the third straight week, the Redskins will have to play without starting left defensive end Kenard Lang, who is still having balance problems after complicated inner-ear surgery 13 days ago.

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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