- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Here we are in Dallas Week — one of two weeks the fans of Washington look forward to every year. The second week is when we play the Cowboys the next time.

When I was growing up, I was obviously a Michigan fan, and the big rivalries were with Michigan State and Ohio State. No matter where you went in Michigan, if you won both of those games, it was a great year to be a Wolverine. If you lost one of them, you always heard about it.

When you play for Washington, you can be 3-4, and the only thing anybody has to say is “just beat Dallas.” In this area and in Texas, there’s no “I don’t really care who wins this game.” That’s what makes this game so special.

When you play Dallas, the game almost seems as if it has a quicker pace — it almost resembles a playoff game. I learned in my rookie year that there’s a pace you play every game — where you’re playing hard and you’re playing to win — and then all of a sudden you make the playoffs, and it’s another step up. Everybody seems to find just a little bit more. It seems like the game is moving faster. When you play Dallas, that’s a little of what it’s like.

Also, in this rivalry the fans are so involved in either stadium that momentum shifts become huge. When things start to go your way, you have to capitalize. When things don’t, you have to change them in a hurry.

Most of you know we snapped a 10-game losing streak to the Cowboys in last year’s final game. At some point, there was a mental hurdle we had to get over. Occasionally, when you’ve lost to a team a couple times in a row, when things start to go bad, in the back of your mind you think, “Oh crud, here we go again.” That’s when you have to have the mentality that you’re going to win no matter what.

The amazing thing is that while this is a huge game because it’s Dallas, it’s even bigger because we’re 3-4, there are mumblings in the paper about different things and there are all these sidebars. And when you play in Washington, things seem to be magnified a little bit just because the people care about the Washington Redskins so much.

We can be right back in the thick of things at 4-4 — and have the momentum of having won a division game and getting one step closer to a possible division title and playoff berth. When you look at the big picture, for it being this early in the season, it’s really a huge game.

OK, time for a couple of questions. One fan wants to know who I’m facing in the Dallas game and what his strengths are.

Greg Ellis, No. 98, comes from a program that used to be good — and the reason I say that is I’m trying to take a jab at Ethan Albright, who also played at North Carolina. That’s one of the things that makes this fun because Ethan always eggs me on about Ellis being a Tar Heel. Tar Heels have few things to cheer about these days, so he tries to find anything possible.

But I think Greg fits Bill Parcells’ style because he doesn’t talk trash or try to go out and dazzle you with spectacular plays. He’s a guy who works hard on every play. He’s fundamentally sound — he’s not going to make a lot of mistakes. He’s a guy who just goes out and plays the game of football, plays it hard and plays the way the coaches want him to play.

The toughest guys to play against are the guys who don’t take plays off. Some guys, you know once you get them locked up they will quit. With Greg, you’ve got to go every second because even when you have him locked up, there’s a second move coming. If you’re not ready for that, he’ll make you look real bad.

Another fan wondered why players, myself included, were reluctant to stop in the parking lot after the loss to Tampa Bay several weeks ago.

That was a tough loss because we really had them in the first half, and we let it slip away for a lot of different reasons. When you come out of the locker room, you’ve had to rehash the loss already, and you’re getting a hundred things shoved in your face. When it’s a kid, you really don’t mind because they’re in it for the genuine joy. You may be their hero. Or they don’t know who Jon Jansen is, but they know who the Washington Redskins are. Those are easy to do, even after a loss.

But what’s hard is when somebody puts a picture in your face, and there’s six of them. You know that they’re going to hit EBay or something, and it doesn’t mean anything to them. They’re just there to make a profit. If it’s genuine, even from adults, you can tell, and you don’t have a problem. When it’s not, it’s hard to sign. And after a game like that, sometimes guys don’t even want to bother telling one from the other.

I guess what I’m saying to the fans is be patient with us. When you come out after a game like that, it’s hard to even speak because you’re so upset.

Thanks for the e-mails at [email protected] See you next week.

Staff writer Jody Foldesy collaborates with Redskins tackle Jon Jansen on this column. It appears every Wednesday.

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