Redskins vs. Cowboys not a reheated rivalry Washington's Johnson: series nothing special

November 16, 1997|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Tre Johnson looked around the Washington Redskins' locker room last week and wanted to know just who among his teammates could be accused of looking ahead to the Dallas Cowboys.

"I know Dallas doesn't mean anything special to me," said the 6-foot-2, 340-pound left guard, the biggest player on the team. "I grew up in New York City and the Giants were always my team. I loved guys like Lawrence Taylor, Jim Burt and Carl Banks. If anything, I'm looking forward to playing the Giants [next Sunday night at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium]."

Johnson was an all-league, all-county and all-section choice as an offensive lineman in Peekskill (N.Y.) High, where he earned the same honors for shot put and discus on the track and field team.

He went to Temple University and became a second-team All-American as a senior. Drafted in the second round (31st overall) in 1994, Johnson has spent nearly four years with Washington and still can't get caught up in the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry.

"I think the same is true for a lot of players on this team," Johnson said. "They didn't grow up around here and haven't been here long enough to learn to hate the Cowboys."

Don't tell that to the Fox TV network, which persuaded the NFL to move today's game in Dallas from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to get its top announcing team of John Madden and Pat Summerall and a bigger viewing audience.

As usual, there is a lot at stake in the NFC East for Washington (6-4) and Dallas (5-5), but the game just doesn't have the magnitude of past seasons.

Both teams have suffered through embarrassing losses and often have played like nothing more than .500 teams.

Dallas, for example, was shocked by the Cardinals, 25-22, in overtime in Week 2 at Arizona. The Cardinals are now 2-8.

And the Redskins did the unthinkable for Washington fans three weeks ago, getting beat by the Ravens, 20-17, the team's first loss in the brief, five-game history of Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

"I've love another chance to play them again," Johnson said. "We kind of stunk up the place that day."

Johnson said he knows the cause of the Redskins' problems.

"We've played down to the level of our competition while a team like the Giants [6-4] has been playing solid football and playing up to their potential," he said.

Washington defensive tackle Ryan Kuehl is one player who grew up amid all the Redskins-Cowboys hatred in Bethesda, Md., where he played for Walt Whitman High.

He said there is so much on the line for both teams that the players can't get too emotionally involved in "the Dallas-Washington thing."

Said Kuehl: "We have to win if we want to think seriously about the playoffs, and Dallas has to win if they want to think at all about the playoffs."

NOTE: WR Michael Westbrook will make his first start since spraining his knee in the 21-16 Monday night victory over Dallas on Oct. 13. Westbrook returned from the injury as a substitute last week, catching four passes for 93 yards in the win over Detroit.

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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