Redskins say attention to attendance is no factor But small Memphis crowd will be quite a contrast

October 19, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Washington Redskins linebacker Marvcus Patton prefers to treat today's matchup with the Tennessee Oilers in Memphis "like an exhibition game where there aren't many people in the stands."

Running back Stephen Davis wants to pretend as though it is like any other game on the 16-game schedule and "just go out and play."

Cornerback Cris Dishman will be thankful he is wearing a Redskins uniform instead of the Oilers jersey he sported for nine years.

Quarterback Gus Frerotte wants to think about how fortunate the Redskins will be "to do things we normally can't do in road games, like hearing audibles and snap counts."

And coach Norv Turner said he simply wishes "we were playing at Jack Kent Cooke" instead of the Liberty Bowl.

It's evident that every Redskins player and coach is using his own form of mental preparation for playing in front of about 20,000 people just six days after drawing one standing ovation after another from 76,159 at the team's new stadium in Landover.

The roars of the crowd were prompted by an impressive Washington performance in a 21-16 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on "Monday Night Football."

That was the NFL at its best.

Today's scene against the Oilers will show an ugly side of the league that has all coaches and members of NFL management trying their best to sugarcoat the issue or ignore it.

Turner choose to sidestep questions about playing in front of such a small gathering.

He shrugged his shoulders, smiled a little and turned the subject to Washington's stadium and the Redskins' fans.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said there "is something to be said for big crowds, but since we don't have that, we can't worry about it. If it [small crowds] was something new here, it might be something to be concerned about."

Pressed on the the subject, Fisher said, "The people in Memphis have an opportunity to chose to come to see us play and they're not doing it."

Oilers quarterback Steve McNair insists he blocks out the fact that there aren't many fans "once I get out on the field."

However, McNair did say it's "hard getting a true NFL experience with small crowds."

Transplanted from Houston, the Oilers will play at the Liberty Bowl for two years while a stadium is being built in Nashville.

According to Washington's Dishman, there are no words that can gloss over the situation for the Oilers' players.

He said he speaks with his friends on the team as often as once a week, and the subject of small crowds is always mentioned.

"We talk about it and then go on to other things," said Dishman, 32, who signed with Redskins as an unrestricted free agent. "Anytime you're playing in an atmosphere like that, you want to get out."

Fisher said the absence of Dishman is one of the main reasons the Oilers are the only NFL team without an interception and rank 27th in the league on pass defense.

Fisher has joked that the "game should be stopped so the player can be presented with the game ball" when the Oilers come up with their first interception.

"It could be the system, running too many coverages," Dishman said, "and the players have to step up and play a bit better."

Washington (4-2) at Tennessee (2-4)

Time: 1 p.m., chs. 45, 5

Line: Pick

Vs. spread: Redskins 4-2; Oilers 4-2.

Last week: Redskins beat Cowboys, 21-16. Oilers beat Bengals, 30-7.

Worth watching: Tennessee RB Eddie George has four 100-yard games this season. The Redskins' Gus Frerotte (eight TD passes, 74.8 quarterback rating) may have to carry the load.

Outlook: The Redskins are coming off an emotional Monday night victory over Dallas in which they lost RB Terry Allen and WR Michael Westbrook for at least two weeks with knee injuries. The Oilers don't have much of a home-field advantage in Memphis, but they did show signs of life last week.

Notable: Oilers have won six of the eight games in which George has rushed for 100 yards or more.

Injuries:

REDSKINS: Out: RB Terry Allen (knee); G Bob Dahl (knee); WR Michael Westbrook (knee). Doubtful: DE Kenard Lang (ear). Probable: S Jesse Campbell (thumb); LB Patrise Alexander (hamstring); RB Marc Logan (groin); DT Chris Mims (abdomen); P Matt Turk (thigh).

OILERS: Questionable: WR Willie Davis (leg); CB Steve Jackson (ankle); TE Michael Roan (elbow); WR Derek Russell (throat); LB Dennis Stallings (hamstring); DT Gary Walker (shoulder).

Pub Date: 10/19/97

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