- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

The Washington Redskins have heard nothing but negatives for the last three weeks, from those who know the team well and even from those who don’t know them at all.

After four straight losses and a never-ending stream of criticism and rumor, you might be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t believe the Redskins’ season is over at 3-5 heading into today’s home game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Anyone outside their locker room, that is.

“Everyone’s got their own opinions, but only people in this house really understand what’s going on and what it’s going to take to get it back,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “We just have to keep fighting. People are going to say what they’re going to say. There’s nothing we can do about it. The way to end all that is to start winning.”

Bailey’s not alone in his thinking. Three weeks of incessant bashing apparently hasn’t gotten to the players.

That much became evident in recent days at Redskin Park, where players went about their business as usual. There even seemed to be a little bounce in their step, a positive energy not seen since the team was 3-1 and had visions of winning the NFC East.

These days no one’s talking about a division title — or even a winning record. But no one’s talking about conceding anything either, even when there appears to be so much reason to buy into that line of thinking.

“We’ve got too much talent,” quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. “When you stop believing, you don’t need to be on the football field.”

Whether these positive vibes will translate to success on the field today is anybody’s guess. The Redskins can talk all they want about resurrecting their season, but it won’t mean much if they come out and lay another egg against Seattle (6-2).

Washington hasn’t played anything close to good football since taking a 10-7 halftime lead against Tampa Bay on Oct.12. In 10 quarters since, the Redskins have been outscored 73-24 and have been dominated in every aspect.

Along the way, coach Steve Spurrier has come under intense scrutiny. His offensive scheme has been questioned. His strained relationship with assistant coaches has been questioned. And his ability to retain the confidence of his players has been questioned.

But a funny thing happened to the Redskins this week. Perhaps feeling they had reached bottom, they began bonding. Players realized it was the only way to make it through the next eight weeks in one piece.

“They haven’t given up on us as players, and we’re not going to give up on them as coaches,” defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. “We’re all in this thing together, and we’re going to turn this thing around together.”

Washington hasn’t made many changes to its personnel or its schemes this week. Aside from a few new touches in pass protection, the team that appears at FedEx Field today won’t look all that different from the one that appeared lost at Texas Stadium last Sunday in a 21-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Rather, the Redskins are counting on their football skills returning to their original levels. They believe they have the talent to win, even against a first-place Seattle team that appears on its way to an NFC West title.

“If we just play our assignments to the best of our abilities, there’s no way that they can beat us,” Bailey said. “We have the talent to do it, but I think we kill ourselves a lot. Seattle has some talented players, but we feel like we can beat them.”

The Redskins better hope their upbeat outlook results in a victory today, because another loss might well send them careening into oblivion. Following this game, Washington faces two daunting challenges on the road against Carolina and Miami. The four-game losing streak could quickly turn into a seven-game losing streak.

Which might explain why the Redskins have made such a point to think positively this week. They can’t afford to let all the negative vibes surrounding the franchise get to them.

“We have eight games left. I’m coming to work just like everyone else,” safety Matt Bowen said. “This is what I do for a living, so I do it to the best of my ability every week. We just need to win, get this losing streak out of our minds and move on.”


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