- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2002

Darrell Green's farewell to football would have been perfect yesterday if the Redskins hadn't had to play a game. The pregame ceremony, capped by his induction into the Ring of Fame, was touching. His victory lap around FedEx Field afterward, to the cheers of his adoring fans, was, as he put it, "incredible." But the 60 minutes of scrimmaging in between we certainly could have done without that.
Except for Darrell's 35-yard punt return on a reverse, of course.
Yes, the Redskins beat the Cowboys finally but their 20-14 victory was as unfulfilling as Green's retirement festivities were flawless. One minute you were saying, "We'll never see another player like Darrell Green again," and next you were saying, "I've never seen a club have a fumble recovery taken away from it because guys ran on the field before the play was over."
Darrell Green is a Redskin through and through. Playing 20 years for one team will do that to you. But he's not one of these Redskins, the current Redskins. These Redskins play a game with which he's not familiar, a game of fumbles through the end zone for touchbacks and interceptions returned for touchdowns in the last minute of the first half and false start penalties on fourth-and-1.
When Darrell broke into the NFL in 1983, the Redskins were just the opposite. They were a club that lived off its opponents' mistakes. In his rookie season, the Redskins were plus-43 in the turnover department (61 takeaways, 18 giveaways), still the league record. But yesterday, as they have so often this season, they kept the Cowboys in the game by fumbling three times, throwing two INTs and generally just self-destructing at every opportunity.
Which is pretty much how they lost 10 straight to Dallas.
"We always find a way to lose [to the Cowboys]," Tre Johnson said. "Even today we got a little crazy. We gave 'em two momentum swings to let 'em back in the game."
The first was when Roy Williams, the newest Redskins killer, picked off an aimless Patrick Ramsey pass and ran 85 yards to make it 7-7 just before halftime. Dallas had 67 yards of offense and three first downs at that point, and yet it was still very much in the game. The second "momentum swing" came with 3:10 left, when the Washington secondary took a snooze and gave up a 46-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Bryant on fourth-and-14. That forced the Redskins to convert a third-and-6 a short time later so they could run out the clock and give Green one last present, a victory.
"It never should have come down to that," Steve Spurrier said. " We had a chance to beat Dallas by three or four touchdowns today. We played hard; we just didn't play smart at times."
The Redskins, in other words, have become everything Darrell Green isn't sloppy, inattentive to detail and, perhaps worst of all, underachieving. If Darrell were any of those things, he wouldn't have lasted a year in the NFL, not at 5-9, 184 pounds. You wonder how many of his teammates, some of them young enough to be his own kids, understand that, understand what it took for him to play two decades in pro football at one of its most demanding positions.
"You can only imagine," he said. " The wear on your family, your body, your emotions. It's more than just [cheers] and autographs."
Even the best corners, like Ronnie Lott and Rod Woodson, find it necessary to switch to safety later in their careers. But Darrell had enough of his legendary speed left at 37 to make the Pro Bowl and enough of it left at 39 to start every game. It's a shame that the last two coaches he played for never really appreciated what he'd accomplished. Marty Schottenheimer couldn't wait to replace him with Donovan Greer, you may recall, and Spurrier, well, he just doesn't pay much attention to the defense. (Though he did offer the opinion once that Champ Bailey doesn't make enough of an impact at cornerback and should consider becoming a receiver.)
But then, pro football isn't a very sentimental business. You'll notice there was no Long Goodbye for Darrell this season, no testimonials in other cities, no rocking chairs or fishing rods or other retirement gifts. Cal Ripken could have filled a warehouse with all the stuff he received, but Darrell didn't get so much as a "Thanks for the memories" from rival clubs.
Perhaps that's fitting, though, because Darrell belongs to Washington first, last and always. He arrived here from Texas A&I; 20 years ago and, despite the temptations of free agency, never left. He found a wife here, raised a family here, started a foundation to help underprivileged children here. He talked the talk always wearing his religious faith on his sleeve but he also walked the walk.
"I never took a drink," he said. "Never smoked a cigarette. I didn't cheat on my wife. I didn't cheat the Redskins. I respected the opponent. I respected the officials."
And he carved out a career on and off the field that could serve as a model for any young athlete. Too bad he couldn't get more of his current teammates to pay attention. If he had, the Redskins might not be sitting out the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons.

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