Ravens-Redskins not your usual preseason bore-a-thon

Subplots abound when teams meet Saturday at FedEx Field

August 15, 2010|Kevin Cowherd

I think we can all agree that most NFL preseason games are huge snoozefests, not to mention a gigantic rip-off for the poor season-ticket holders who pay full price to mainly watch a bunch of second- and third-string fat guys push each other around for three hours.

But at least the Ravens' second preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Saturday at FedEx Field has a few interesting subplots going for it.

Maybe the top one is this: Donovan McNabb will start at quarterback for the Redskins. You might recall that two years ago, when he played for Philadelphia, McNabb was benched at halftime during the Ravens' 36-7 drubbing of the Eagles at M&T Bank Stadium.

It was the second straight dreadful outing for McNabb. He was 8-for-18 passing for 59 yards, including two interceptions, and lost a fumble that night. And that performance pretty much greased the skids for the Eagles to eventually trade him to the Redskins and go with Kevin Kolb as their starting quarterback.

McNabb acknowledged being shaken to the core that day. And he looked it, standing mournfully on the sidelines in his Eagles jacket and hoodie, an empty look in his eyes. I remember the reporters asking him after the game whether he had ever been benched like that.

"Never," he said, shaking his head for emphasis. "Never."

So we'll see how McNabb fares against the Ravens, see whether he's extra jacked-up to play the team that made him look so bad that chilly November evening.

When the media asks him about it this week, you can bet he'll lapse into standard NFL robo-speak and say: "No, it's just another game. I haven't given the Ravens a second thought."

Don't you believe it. Entering his 12th season, McNabb has been a terrific quarterback. He's got a lot of pride. And a lot to prove to both the Redskins and himself.

He'll probably play only a quarter or so Saturday night. But a solid performance against the Ravens, while not exactly payback -- not in a preseason game -- would do a lot to solidify the team's confidence in McNabb.

There are other subplots, too, though.

How will Jim Zorn be greeted in Washington, where he was the Redskins' head coach for two years before being fired in January and eventually hired as the Ravens' quarterback coach?

How long will serial malcontent Albert Haynesworth play -- the big nose tackle got in for a few series in the Redskins' 42-17 rout of the Buffalo Bills on Friday -- and how well?

I also want to see what's developing in this budding rivalry between the Ravens and Redskins.

Let's face it: It's only a pseudo-rivalry right now.

Even though the teams are only 30-some miles apart, the players themselves mostly dismiss talk of a rivalry. "No, we're in different conferences," they tell you, "we don't play them enough, we have nothing against them," and yadda yadda yadda.

But Ravens fans -- who have a chip on their shoulder the size of a Sierra redwood and proudly profess to hate all things Washington, especially the Redskins -- would love to have territorial bragging rights for this game.

It ain't the Ravens-Steelers, Baltimore fans will tell you. But any attempt to turn the Redskins into Satan's Team is fine by them.

Finally, here's yet another reason to tune into Saturday's game: redemption for poor Joe Reitz. Did you see the big guy try to dunk the football over the crossbar in the Ravens' 17-12 win over the Carolina Panthers last week?

Was that the ugliest thing you've ever seen? And, naturally, it made every sports highlight show in the country.

That was Exhibit A for why you never hand the ball to an offensive lineman after a touchdown and say, "Do something cool to celebrate."

See, most offensive linemen are incapable of doing anything cool with a football. Especially if it involves going airborne.

But Reitz, who is 6 feet 7 and 320 pounds, insists he has hops and can pull off a crossbar dunk.

Apparently, he was a big-deal basketball player at Western Michigan and finished third on the school's all-time scoring and rebounding lists.

After that botched dunk in the Carolina game, Reitz told reporters, "I want to go on record to say that I could dunk in college -- and I did dunk -- even though I embarrassed myself a little bit out there."

Yes, he sure did that.

But here's hoping Reitz is on the field when the offense scores a touchdown Saturday. And here's hoping they hand him the ball again, point to the crossbar and say, "Big man, have another go at it."

And this time he better do it.

Or at least look cool trying.


Listen to Kevin Cowherd from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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