After a week off, Redskins eager to say bye to losing

Dallas is tough test, but 2-5 Washington knows win is necessity

Pro football

October 31, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

ASHBURN, Va. -- In other years, Redskins Park might have had a different feel than it did yesterday heading into Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field.

Maybe it was the Indian summer weather that made it seem more like August than nearly November. Or the fact that the Washington Redskins were coming off a bye week and the three straight defeats that preceded it.

After watching some of the upsets that occurred Sunday, Redskins receiver Santana Moss is hoping that his 2-5 team can do something similar against the suddenly revived Cowboys, 35-14 winners at Carolina on Sunday night.

"You've got to come together at some point and turn that switch on," Moss said. "Some teams it's been on since Day 1 and some teams are trying to catch up and be that team."

The Redskins have been playing catch-up since their 0-2 start, which included a 27-10 loss to the Cowboys at Texas Stadium on Sept. 17. A week off was helpful in healing some injuries as well as the team's collective psyche.

"I know we needed it physically and mentally, just to get away," running back Clinton Portis said. "A lot of people were banged up. Mentally, going through this, nobody believed we would lose five games this season, let alone be 2-5 at this point. We needed it."

Moss, Portis and quarterback Mark Brunell - perhaps the team's three most important offensive players - didn't participate in yesterday's practice because of injuries suffered in a 36-22 loss at Indianapolis nine days ago.

Brunell, who took a shot to the ribs, said that he expects to be back on the field when practice resumes tomorrow, but Moss' strained hamstring and Portis' sprained ankle could keep them out a little longer.

"Obviously Clinton is a very big part of our football team," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "He's one of our leaders, a highly productive guy. We just have to see how he comes along this week. If something like that happens, it falls on the other guys' shoulders."

Gibbs said that he spent the week off looking at tape of every running play the Redskins ran so far this season, as well as viewing other components of what has been a terrible start for a team many predicted to be a strong contender in the NFC.

"When you have time to do that, there are things that jump out at you, that maybe you didn't pick up as you're going from week to week trying to get ready for the next opponent," said Gibbs, who declined to discuss what he learned.

As of yesterday, Gibbs had yet to look at tape of the Cowboys, but he knows they are a different team than the one the Redskins played - and were dominated by - earlier in the season.

The biggest change has come at quarterback, where Tony Romo has replaced veteran Drew Bledsoe.

"What they've got right now is a quarterback that played extremely well last night," Gibbs said. "They're playing extremely well right now. We kind of know from the way they beat us down there that we're playing a really good football team this week."

Despite much speculation, it seems doubtful that the Redskins are going to make their own change at quarterback as long as Brunell is healthy. Second-year quarterback Jason Campbell and veteran Todd Collins took the snaps at practice yesterday.

"I definitely think anytime Jason gets to work it's good for him," Gibbs said. "I've talked to him a lot about patience. It's hard to be excited about things because there's a chance you're not going to play. I could tell this week it was good for him to get work, you could tell he was a little nervous."

Brunell doesn't think it matters that the Cowboys are coming to town.

"We're 2-5, regardless of who it is and where it is, we need to win," Brunell said.

Brunell would be surprised if Moss and Portis aren't ready for the Cowboys.

"It is Monday," Brunell said of yesterday. "When the lights come on, those guys show up, they know, they're ready to play. They know what they need. I'm not worried about those guys at all."

Portis said that there is more than a sense of urgency.

"We can't lose now," he said. "We've got to find a way to win every game we play one week at a time."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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