- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Near the end of his career, when his back was beginning to act up, John Riggins would check into the hospital in the middle of the week, spend a couple of days in traction and then carry the ball 25 times on Sunday. Redskins trainer Bubba Tyer remembers a running back named Larry Smith who "played with two broken bones the fibula down by the ankle and the metacarpal in his hand." And I'm pretty sure Mark Schlereth had his knee operated on at halftime once it was either surgery No. 9 or surgery No. 14 and went out and finished the game.

(OK, I'm exaggerating about Schlereth, but the other two are true.)

Redskins have done all kinds of courageous, crazy things in the line of duty. And Darrell Green just added another to the list, gutting it out on one good leg Monday night to help the team win a crucial game against the Rams. Green must want to go back to the Super Bowl pretty badly because a lot of cornerbacks wouldn't dream of playing with a torn calf muscle. Heck, a lot of cornerbacks wouldn't be able to play with a torn calf muscle.

Early in the day Monday, it looked like even Darrell wouldn't be able to. An MRI administered by a St. Louis physician revealed that the muscle pull that had kept him out the previous three games was really a tear. It was the last thing the Redskins wanted to hear a few hours before stepping in the ring with Isaac Bruce et al. They needed Green if they were going to keep the Rams' fleet receiving corps in check.

"Hey, don't worry about it," defensive boss Ray Rhodes told him when he got the news. "Just help us out on the sideline." But when Darrell balked at sitting out, Rhodes said, "Well, just get to the game early then and see what you can do."

So Green got there early, went through warmups and convinced himself mind over matter that he could play. And sure enough, he did. In fact, he set the tone for the defense on the very first series when he blanketed first Bruce and then Torry Holt down on the goal line and forced St. Louis to settle for a field goal. The Rams aren't used to settling for field goals.

"That was an incredible game," said Green. "I always sit on the bench when the defense is off the field, but I didn't sit down all night. I just walked all around, trying to keep my leg loose. I also prayed."

Whatever he did, it worked. And Tyer, who has pretty much seen it all in his 30 years with the Redskins, was duly impressed.

"Cornerback is probably one of the hardest positions to play with that injury," he said, "The running and stopping and using force to change direction [make it difficult]. A wide receiver would have an easier time because he's [basically just] moving forward. Same thing with an offensive lineman."

But this was a game that required Green's presence, and Darrell knew that as much as anybody. As one of the tribal elders, it was important that he be on the field, giving whatever he had to give. The Redskins' season was hanging in the balance just as it was in January 1988, when he tore some rib cartilage in the playoffs. That time, though, the doctors just gave him a shot for the pain. Monday night he had to deal with the discomfort as best he could.

It's funny, Norv Turner said. "You get into the heat of the game," and all of a sudden you can't remember if you hurt your right leg or your left leg. Norv recalled the time Emmitt Smith separated his shoulder against the Giants in '93 and refused to come out because the division title was at stake. Dallas wound up winning in overtime, and Smith racked up 229 yards from scrimmage the second-best day of his career. (Only after the season did he get the shoulder repaired.)

Fortunately for the Redskins, Green doesn't seem to have made his injury worse by playing. He was sore yesterday, but there was no swelling. "I expect him to practice by the end of the week," Tyer said.

Turner sounded less certain, but he did take comfort in the fact that Darrell hadn't suffered "a major setback." If his Hall of Fame-bound nickel back needs more rest, he said, "We'll play good defense the next three or four weeks without [him]. The teams coming up on our schedule don't present the same kind of problems St. Louis does."

Not hardly. The Eagles, Giants, Cowboys and Steelers don't have anybody along the lines of an Isaac Bruce, never mind a Torry Holt. They're special just as a 40-year-old cornerback who plays with a torn calf muscle is special.

"That will go down as one of the most miraculous games of my career," Green said. "And not because I did anything great out there."

No, Darrell didn't do anything great out there. He didn't have interceptions or touchdowns or noteworthy tackles. He just showed up for work for the 258th time. He just played.

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