- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

Cornerback Deion Sanders never understood all the rivalry talk between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. After all, the Cowboys seemingly owned the series with five straight wins.

But a switch of alliances has awakened Sanders to the importance of Dallas Week as Washington (1-1) prepares for Monday night's meeting with Dallas (0-2) at FedEx Field. Sanders now wants a victory so dominating that even the secretaries and janitors at Valley Ranch will know "Prime Time" is doing well without them.

"I would like to win … handsomely," Sanders said yesterday.

The visiting Cowboys little resemble the franchise that won Super Bowl titles in 1992, 1993 and 1995. A sizzling rivalry dating from 1971, when George Allen became the Redskins' coach, has sometimes wavered but never waned.

Sanders said he has the key to reversing the Redskins' losing streak: confidence. He plans to deliver a pregame talk revealing that the Cowboys' secret to success is their belief the Redskins would always fold.

"The Cowboys really believed they could beat the Redskins, and that's all attitude," Sanders said. "We have to believe [we can beat the Cowboys] in this locker room, because you're not going to see an 0-2 team coming to play. You're going to see a football team play like they haven't played all year. This is a chance for the Cowboys to turn their season around."

Certainly Sanders was a big part of the streak last year. His 70-yard punt return for a touchdown sealed the 38-20 victory at Texas Stadium.

"If you lose a guy like Deion, it affects you from a confidence standpoint." Cowboys coach Dave Campo said. "We miss him. To win on a consistent basis, you have to have guys that rush the passer and cover."

Sanders wouldn't say whether he would rather face quarterback Troy Aikman or Randall Cunningham. The Cowboys said they will announce today whether Aikman will play after missing one game with a concussion.

"That's a loaded question. I would rather see the best quarterback," he said. "Randall presents you with a greater problem because of his mobility. We would rather let someone stay in the pocket and let us get our shots."

Said quarterback Brad Johnson: "I tell Deion every time I see him it's better to play with him than play against him twice a year. Now Troy can see what we've faced all these years."

Sanders comes off the self-described worst game of his career after permitting seven receptions in the 15-10 loss to Detroit on Sunday. Sanders wouldn't blame his bruised and sprained left ankle for playing soft. He returned to practice yesterday, offering to race anyone who doubted his readiness.

But Sanders also warned opponents not to test him. After all, he has returned eight career interceptions for touchdowns.

"A bad day at the office for me is not like a bad day for most. We didn't give up a touchdown. We didn't give up a huge play. They just moved the ball with short curls all day, particularly on myself," Sanders said. "But that will be corrected this week, I will assure you of that."

Indeed, Sanders relishes a chance for redemption before a Monday night national audience. He joked of not being born on a Monday, "but I've had a lot of success on Mondays."

"You have the center stage of the whole country to see you do your thing," Sanders said. "Since I've been a child I've been in the spotlight and everyone has been taking shots at me. I finally gave the media a chance to take some shots at me, and I hope they keep on doing it because in some way or another I always come out on top."

Sanders sparred with visiting Dallas media, though sometimes turning cynical in his responses. Sanders and the Cowboys media often feuded in his final years in Dallas. Asked whether he trusted them to report fairly, Sanders said, "Not a bit. Not as far as I can throw you."

"I want to give [the local media] something special, but we have some Dallas media present and I don't want to give them the good stuff," he said. "You have to behave in front of company."

A flyer hung on an adjacent locker repeating Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith's comment "The Redskins have been loading up all year for us. It's going to be unfortunate when they lose." The flyer then asked "WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?"

Sanders laughed at the note, saying owner Dan Snyder shouldn't be criticized for creating the NFL's first $100 million payroll. Then again, $8 million was the cornerback's signing bonus. Sanders said Dallas owner Jerry Jones and Snyder share the passion of wanting to win, so what's wrong with spending for marquee players?

"Every owner in the league tries to secure free agents," Sanders said. "Dan shops at Versace. Other owners shop at Wal-Mart."

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