- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 18, 2001

There was something about Darrell Green's retirement announcement back in September that, well, didn't feel right. It came the same day Fred Smoot was named the starting cornerback opposite Champ Bailey, and it was hard not to think Darrell was being pushed out the door by new coach Marty Schottenheimer.
Schottenheimer, the former lumbering linebacker, had been trying to change Green's coverage style in camp and had even had him fielding punts. As the opener approached, Darrell was feeling superfluous, unloved and the team wasn't playing worth a darn, either. So, perhaps guided more by emotion than by reason, he called a news conference and said that this season, his 19th, would be his last.
There was one problem. Green was still a very capable player, even if he was no longer a regular. And he played the game with the same zest he always did. That might be the most "remarkable" thing of all about him, Schottenheimer says. As a player ages, he tends to "lose the emotional edge, that fire … and Darrell hasn't done that."
Indeed, Green looked as sharp as ever when he filled in for the injured Smoot for three games. (The Redskins won all three.) And as the season wore on, Redskins fans made it known to him particularly with the signs they would wave at FedEx Field that they didn't want him to hang 'em up just yet. It probably tells us as much about them as it does about Darrell. He is, after all, the last link to the glory years of the '80s and early '90s, and they just aren't ready, it seems, to let him or those sweet memories go.
So yesterday, the day after he had made the 54th interception of his career against the division-leading Eagles, Green scrapped his retirement plans and said he would play one more year and only one more year. Even Old Stoneface, Schottenheimer, admitted to being "delighted." Like every other coach Darrell has played for, Marty has been won over; he understands now how much "DGreen" means to the team spiritually, never mind how he performs on the field.
Typically, Green accepted some of the blame for the two of them not being on the same page early on. The first time they met, you see, Darrell said to his new boss, "Look, you don't know me, and I don't know you, so let me tell you a little bit about who I am." He then proceeded to talk about the team's chapel service and his youth learning centers and how important they were to him, but he didn't say anything about his goals as a football player. And that kind of surprised the coach, made him wonder if the Oldest Redskin was still into football and not just using it to advance his next career.
Schottenheimer mentioned that to Green when they chatted yesterday morning, reminded him that "I didn't say that I wanted to go to the Super Bowl and be an All-Pro and all those sorts of things," Darrell said. "I took for granted that he knew me as far as my football was concerned." It was a miscalculation on both their parts and it led to him announcing his retirement in September.
But fences were mended nothing like a five-game winning streak to improve everybody's frame of mind and the fans' pleas eventually convinced Green to keep playing. His family is cool with the idea of him coming back, too, he says. ("Enthused" was how he described his kids' reaction). And in the aftermath of 9-11, he can use another year to get his Youth Life foundation set up financially.
His teammates are pretty enthused as well. "Everybody loves to be around him," Tony Banks said. "I honestly thought he was going to retire after this year; I mean, 19 years that's a blessing."
Twenty is so much nicer and rounder a number, though. It's difficult to believe a cornerback could last that long in the NFL, the demands of the position being what they are. Kickers, OK. Backup quarterbacks, sure. (Steve DeBerg, you may recall, was 45 when he went to the Super Bowl with the Falcons a few seasons ago.) But a corner who's going on 42? Astounding.
Night Train Lane and Willie Brown, I'll just point out, had the bell toll for them at 38. Mike Haynes lasted barely until he was 36, and Herb Adderley was done at 33. And Darrell is going to be nine years older than Adderley was at the end?
The thing is, he could probably play until he was 45 unless wife Jewell puts her foot down, that is. Has he lost a step or so? Undoubtedly. But we tend to forget: He was one of the fastest men in the world when he joined the Redskins in 1983. Speed has never been an issue for him. Neither has toughness, despite his small (5-9, 187) stature. Schottenheimer found that out in a hurry and has praised Green's fierce tackling at every opportunity.
Now Darrell will get to go out the way he deserves to go out not as the aging star who didn't fit into the new coach's plans, but as the greatest Redskin since Sammy Baugh … and one of the Athletic Wonders of the Modern World. A nicer Christmas present we couldn't have received.


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