- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Just about all the Washington Redskins have adopted the club's fierce rivalry with the Dallas Cowboys from the first-year coach to the first-year players to the guys who have been around the club for a few seasons now.

And elder statesman Darrell Green loves it.

"I saw the other day when the Ohio State coach [Jim Tressel], in the Michigan [game], he talked about when he took the job he embraced the rivalry," the 20th-year cornerback said yesterday. "I think that's pretty healthy. You owe it to the community. And regardless if it's the same as it used to be, I just think there are certain things that are tradition, and you've got to try to embrace those things."

The Cowboys, who play host to Washington on Thursday, seemingly have embraced plenty in recent years, winning nine straight in the series dating to 1997's second meeting. It's the NFL's longest current streak and an indictment considering that Dallas has had just one winning team (1998) during the span.

"Even when they've had terrible teams, teams that I've thought were nowhere near equivalent to us in talent, they've always risen to [the challenge]," said recently re-signed guard Tre Johnson, one of just three players who has beaten Dallas as a Redskin. "We lose by three, we lose by five, we lose in overtime. It's like, wow. I think they, as an organization, have gotten up more for us than we've gotten for them."

But that might be changing under coach Steve Spurrier, who singled out the Cowboys in his introductory news conference in January. Although this Thanksgiving Day game has big-time implications for the season of Washington (5-6), the coach knows that just as significant to many Redskins fans is the chance to beat the hated Cowboys (4-7).

"This is the game Redskin fans want to win more than the others, it seems like," Spurrier said. "They've beaten us nine straight. It's a team we need to beat, no question about it. We need to beat the Cowboys. We're looking forward to it. I'm sure the Cowboys are looking forward to it."

In fact, they are. Dallas coach Dave Campo had no problem professing his distaste for Washington yesterday, shrugging off the notion that turnover such as the Redskins' four coaches in the past three seasons dilutes the rivalry.

"We don't like the Redskins," Campo said. "It doesn't matter if it's Spurrier, [Marty] Schottenheimer or [Norv] Turner, we don't care. We don't like the Redskins."

Green's availability for what would be his final game in Dallas is in serious doubt. He landed on his hip while breaking up a potential game-winning touchdown pass in Sunday's win over the St. Louis Rams. Whether it's a hip pointer (the initial indication) or a hip flexor (a less serious injury), he likely will miss several weeks.

Green said he was feeling much better yesterday at Redskin Park and, in fact, he looked far more healthy than fellow cornerback Fred Smoot. After bruising his rear end Sunday, Smoot was limping severely yesterday but still declared he would play against the Cowboys. Green, for his part, didn't do much at practice, and his status in the final weeks of his final season remains in doubt.

"I'd like to be out there pretty bad [on Thursday]," Green said. "But I've got to take care of myself and see how it unfolds."

Regardless, Green's presence is more inspirational than schematically significant at this point. First of all, rookie Rashad Bauman worked as the third cornerback Sunday, reducing Green to the rarely used fourth corner. And more importantly, the Redskins' focus this week is to repeat the balanced offense and big-play defense that grounded the streaking Rams.

Washington can salvage some dignity in Spurrier's first season if not a playoff berth in the highly suspect NFC East if it continues to play the way it did Sunday. On offense Spurrier, criticized for being pass-happy, got Stephen Davis 31 carries and set up an effective day by new starting quarterback Danny Wuerffel. And on defense Washington limited potent St. Louis to just 17 points.

Can Washington maintain that level under the pressure of playing Dallas? Linebacker Jessie Armstead thinks so.

"I understand [the losing streak], but you've got new guys in here now," Armstead said. "We have beat Dallas before. We're not nine-time losers to Dallas. So they've got to deal with a whole group of different guys now."

Armstead played the Cowboys twice a year while with the New York Giants, just as fellow linebacker Jeremiah Trotter got them biannually with the Philadelphia Eagles. Trotter, in his short time in Washington, has gotten a strong sense of what this game means to the area. Like teammates who have suffered through some or all of the recent nine losses, he'll carry that into this contest.

"Everywhere I go, no matter who we beat or who we play, still they want Dallas," Trotter said. "I want 'em, too. We all want 'em. We're going to go out there this week and try to get a win."

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