- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 15, 2002

The Washington Redskins' bid to become spoilers gains a quick opportunity ruining a farewell party.
The Redskins visit Veterans Stadium today for Philadelphia's final regular-season game before the Eagles move to nearby Lincoln Financial Field next season. The Eagles (10-3) can clinch their second straight NFC East title by beating the Redskins (5-8), so it's not the true final exit given an expected playoff game.
However, the Redskins are seeking any motivation possible after their earliest playoff elimination since 1994. Avenging a 37-7 loss before a Monday night national audience Sept.16 has Washington ready to crash Philadelphia's goodbye gala.
"We definitely want to ruin the party," said guard Tre Johnson, who played his college games at the Vet. "You don't want to be a notch on anyone's belt. You want to hit them in the mouth. I hope we're a blemish on their record."
Said cornerback Champ Bailey: "We definitely want to spoil their last game in the stadium and [the Eagles' chance of clinching the division]. We can spoil a lot of things by winning."
Forgive the Redskins for being ungracious guests. Eagles fans are the meanest crowd east of Oakland, with even Santa Claus once taking a snowball on his bearded chops. Redskins fans wearing their team colors in the stands over the years were often harassed, if not fought. Cars with District license plates in the parking lot were vandalized. Players often wouldn't bring family members despite this being the closest annual road trip for fear Eagles backers would mistreat them.
The Redskins would prefer not being the sacrificial homecoming opponent of sorts like in 2000, when the Pittsburgh Steelers bid Three Rivers Stadium goodbye with a 24-3 thumping. It was such a bad day that the team's return flight hit a crosswind departing Pittsburgh that terrorized many players into thinking they were going to crash.
"I don't want it to be a repeat of what happened when we played the last game at Three Rivers Stadium," Bailey said. "We definitely don't want that. And we're in Pennsylvania again. We have to do a lot better than we did that day."
Linebacker LaVar Arrington is hoping for redemption in his home state. The Pittsburgh native still winces over the Three Rivers ending and hates the cross-state Eagles so much that he'd willingly hit the detonation button on the Vet.
"Pittsburgh people don't like Philly," Arrington said. "I'd like to get an early start on [its detonation]."
Cornerback Darrell Green remembered the Redskins beating the Dallas Cowboys 37-10 in RFK Stadium's 1996 finale and the Pittsburgh ending, but doesn't feel the home team has a huge emotional edge.
"In Pittsburgh, I don't think they were in our heads. We just weren't a very good team," Green said. "I don't care if they're going to blow the building up. If we're not successful on Sunday, it won't be because it's the last game in that stadium."
The Redskins simply could be the inferior team. Washington is 0-4 in the NFC East and makes its fifth quarterback change this season with Patrick Ramsey starting. The Redskins are in the middle of a youth movement in the final weeks, and Ramsey needs to win his first game as a starter before the offseason or Washington may shop for a passer.
"It's about gaining confidence," Ramsey said. "I felt a little more comfortable, calm, at peace in there this time around [against the Giants last Sunday in relief], but there was no huge difference."
But Ramsey already has a supporter in Johnson, who knows the rookie can hit a pass from anywhere on the field. Ramsey rallied Washington from 17-0 to 27-21 against New York before receiver Darnerien McCants' costly late fumble.
"Patrick is exciting. I don't think he's been around long enough to know any fear," Johnson said. "I've only seen him in spots, but he has a rifle."
Maybe all it will take to sour the Eagles fans celebration is a few early scoring drives, said tight end Walter Rasby.
"You try to make them look bad and their crowd will turn on them," he said.
After all, it's not a party until something bad happens.

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