- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2000

Dan Turk, disconsolate, decided not to fly back to Washington with the team after his bad snap cost the Redskins a chance to upset the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second round of the playoffs.

He says he felt so empty and alone after he boarded the team bus at the stadium. He replayed the snap in his mind over and over, and no matter how many times he replayed it, it came out the same. It was killing him, and the prospect of being consigned to a seat on the team bus and later the plane, amid all his stress and jumble of thoughts and pent-up energy, was only making things worse.

Turk just wanted to bust loose, so before the bus left to carry the team to the Tampa, Fla., airport, he got off and started walking, to nowhere in particular, really, only to a place in his mind that could make peace with the snap. He prayed, searching for a reason. There must be a reason, he told himself. He could make that snap in his sleep, and it was that thankless but important skill that allowed him to extend his NFL career to 15 seasons and past his 37th birthday.

"The ball just squirted out of my hands," Turk says. "No excuses. I get paid to put that ball in Brad Johnson's hands, and I didn't do it."

Turk walked for the longest time in Tampa on Saturday night. He wound up in the old neighborhood where he once lived when he was a member of the Buccaneers in the 1987-88 seasons.

"I felt sick," he says. "I was dying. I wish I could have it back, but there was nothing I could do to change it."

Turk eventually made his way back to the team hotel and thought of staying there overnight. But there were too many fans of the Buccaneers at the hotel, and they were in a celebratory mood, and he knew he was partly responsible for their boisterous manner. He tried to arrange a flight back to one of the Washington-area airports, but it was too late for that, and anyway, he wasn't certain he was ready to return to Washington.

Washington was talking about the game and his role in the outcome, and his wife, Peggy, was waiting to console him at their home in Sterling, Va. But no one, except another athlete, a teammate, possibly could understand what he was feeling, so he called up a friend and caught a flight out of Tampa and has spent the last few days coming to terms with the bad snap at his friend's home.

"I'm human," Turk says. "I have to accept that. Humans make mistakes. Brad didn't want to throw an interception, but he did. I didn't want to make a bad snap, but I did. I had a perfect chance to make a perfect snap, and I didn't.

"And I have to say this: You know, when you're on the line of scrimmage in those situations, guys from the other team say things, talk stuff to throw you off, and I have to say the guys with Tampa Bay didn't say a word before the snap. So I don't even have that as an excuse.

"If I'm the scapegoat, I accept that. That's kind of the way it's been since I've been here. They always look for someone to blame. You know what? Blame me. I don't care. I just feel bad for the 50 guys I let down, the hard-working guys, the Stephen Davises. I didn't do my job, so Brett [Conway] didn't get his chance to win the game for us."

Turk says he felt a sense of isolation from his teammates after the bad snap.

He says his teammates, with the exception of his brother, Matt, and Keith Sims, did nothing to ease his isolation. It would have meant something special to him, he says, if one or several of the leaders of the team had tried to comfort him.

"Irving Fryar, Darrell Green, all those guys who are God-fearing men, it would have been nice if they had said something to me," he says. "Where were they when I needed them? But nobody said, 'Hey, Dan, we're going to pray for you. We're behind you.' It was like a nightmare, and I was sick about the whole thing. God made this happen for a reason, and I'm going to work through it."

As for the notion peddled on the postgame talk shows in Washington that he and his brother were caught on camera sharing a laugh moments after the bad snap, Turk says he has no idea how that rumor was started.

"There was no laughing," he says. "Are you kidding? I was aching, dying. I felt sick, humbled by it. If it weren't for my faith in God, I wouldn't be able to get through this. Laughing? That's ludicrous. I was almost crying. I've never been like that before in a game. I was physically sick."

Turk knows he is finished with the Redskins, and ironically, his departure comes at a time when he feels especially good about what he was able to achieve during the season.

He lost 35 pounds in the offseason to improve his speed and downfield coverage abilities. He was the one who knocked Deion Sanders silly in the game at Dallas. He was the one who made the tackle on the opening punt in Tampa that resulted in an injury to his left elbow. At first, he thought he had hyperextended the elbow and wondered whether he would be able to meet his snapping duties.

"But I was able to work it out," he says. "It was sore some, but it was fine, and that had nothing to do with the snap. I made a bunch of good snaps after that play."

If anything, Turk says, the new balls put into play during kicking situations are trickier for everyone to handle.

"The referees don't always rub the balls down, and they are slicker," he says. "If the quarterbacks had to throw with those balls, it would be the football follies. I had a wake-up call with those balls in Dallas. Matt took the blame for not handling the snap, but I know in my heart that the snap should have been better. Anytime I'm not perfect with my snaps, I'm upset, and in Dallas, that was one of those times."

Although this is the end for Turk in Washington after three seasons with the Redskins, he believes he has some football left in him.

"I know I'm still one of the best at what I do," he says. "You know what? Call Dallas and see if they would like to have me knock the stuffing out of other returners like I did their big Deion Sanders. I will stop playing when my body says I can't play any longer, but I'm not there yet.

"I accept responsibility for what happened in Tampa. It kills me. It's too bad a great season had to end like that. I've prayed a lot. I let the team down, totally. That ball slipped out of my hands, and if only I could have it back. But you know what? I'm human."

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