- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

Washington Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot is looking to get lost in Lambeau Field tonight. A national audience will watch the Redskins visit the Green Bay Packers, but Smoot will feel alone. And it will feel good.
"You know what football does for me? Anytime I step on the football field it takes me away from everything. It takes me away from the troubles of the world," he said. "When I'm on the football field I think about just relaxing, having fun. When the game's over, then other stuff starts coming in."
For 13 days since the terrorist attacks, the Redskins have awaited their chance to give fans something else to watch, maybe even cheer. They finally get it.
But are the Redskins capable of delivering? A 30-3 opening loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sept. 9 has the Redskins wondering whether they're truly rebuilding. Can the interior offensive line run block effectively? Will quarterback Jeff George work the new offensive scheme? Is special teams still a major liability? Where is the defensive line's pass rush?
Washington (0-1) is a nine-point underdog to Green Bay (1-0). Another devastating loss would threaten the season, but an upset could quickly revive the team.
"I don't think anybody respects us," defensive tackle Kenard Lang said. "They saw the problems we went through last year and the offseason. We have to take a stand to win a game. We're like 1-4 with the preseason."
Said cornerback Champ Bailey: "Every week you have to take a stand. We have to let everybody know we are for real. If you win on Monday nights you get that respect because everybody sees what you're doing."
The Redskins know getting whipped by the Chargers, who were 1-15 last year, was a major credibility challenge under new coach Marty Schottenheimer. Still, Schottenheimer and some players refused to place emphasis on beating Green Bay as the key to a turnaround.
"You don't need to put that pressure on yourself. We got our butts kicked last week. If you admit that instead of saying this guy was [injured, then] just admit we got beat and move forward," George said. "We just have to worry about what we do. Get good at what you do. Know the offense and make them stop you."
George recently said leadership was overrated that it would be washed away by winning. Yet, George could be benched for the second straight game if the Redskins trail greatly or if he performs poorly. George completed only eight of 18 passes for 66 yards with two interceptions and a minuscule 14.8 rating against San Diego before he was pulled in the third quarter and replaced by Tony Banks.
Teammates are still backing George. They feel he gives them a better chance for success than Banks, who's still learning the offense after joining the team last month.
"Everybody on the offense has confidence in him. The defense, too," running back Stephen Davis said. "He's our quarterback, and we're going to go out and play together as a team."
Schottenheimer has appeared especially weary over the past week, clearly worn from the exhaustive schedule and strain of the terrorist attacks. He claimed practices, which are closed to the media for the first time in many years, have been strong. Then again, he said the same thing before San Diego.
However, Schottenheimer can be candid and it's debatable whether the team is truly ready for the Packers.
"None of us knows how they're going to play after what's transpired after the last [13] days," he said.
Smoot knows how it will start, though. In one of the NFL's legendary stadiums filled with middle-class America instead of corporate executives, the national anthem promises to be an emotional moment.
"It just won't be a song. Right now it's a way of life," Smoot said. "Every word in that song speaks the truth, and every American in there will feel it."

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