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Redskins' rookie makes himself at home after season opener

Dan Steinberg
Wednesday, September 15, 2010; D2

If you watched the Redskins' opener from home, your lasting image of Anthony Armstrong will probably involve straining arms, outstretched fingers and a football gently falling to the ground.

The Redskins tried to go to Armstrong two plays in a row early in the third quarter, and neither resulted in a touchdown. Then they botched the field goal attempt and got nothing. Coach Mike Shanahan later said the first ball to Armstrong should have been a touchdown, and that's probably what you'll remember.

In the fourth quarter, Armstrong got his first (and only) catch of the game, the first of his NFL career. That's probably what he'll remember.

But none of that will be my lasting image of Armstrong from Sunday. Mine is of the young wide receiver sprinting halfway across the field when the game ended - reaching that point before virtually any of his teammates - and then standing there, screaming at the Dallas bench while gesticulating wildly.

Clinton Portis could be seen dancing in the vicinity, and other players raised their arms and hugged and made all happy-like, but none with Armstrong's intensity.

"I was out there just yelling, saying that 'this is our house,' to make it interview friendly," Armstrong said. "That was for the whole city of Dallas, all of that. That was just like this is our house, and we got y'all. I was just extremely excited. It was out of this world. All the emotions. You can't even imagine."

Eventually I had to leave the press box and descend to the field level, so I asked him how long his yell lasted.

"I don't know, I've just barely stopped since we got in [the locker room] here," he said 20 minutes later. "We had to do the Lord's Prayer, so you can't really yell through that. I'm so excited. I'm on Cloud 12, 13, I don't even know."

Armstrong, of course, was previously a lifelong Cowboys fan, who slept in a Cowboys-blue bedroom, and whose relatives had given him grief for days about that game. He knows people who play for Dallas, and other people who work in the organization. He dreamed of making his first NFL catch for the Cowboys, not against them. And he knew all about the 10-second runoff rule, so while Artis Hicks was still explaining to Trent Williams that the game was over, Armstrong was gone.

"Once I saw that ref give that holding penalty, I knew the rule - 10-second runoff - so I took off," he said. "I was just so excited. It feels so good to beat those guys. There's already the rivalry, and then being from there, everybody talking crazy to me all week, I just get to put it in everybody's face. I'm ecstatic."

Cloud 12, indeed, is pretty good. But I still say the best explanation of joy was delivered before the game even started, by General Manager Bruce Allen, in his appearance on ESPN 980.

"It's special, it's special to the country," he said of the Dallas rivalry. "That's why we're on Sunday night television. We'll get super ratings on it, but any game we beat the Cowboys is a great day in America."

(The game scored a 37.2 rating and a 57 share in the Washington area, according to Nielsen overnight data, which means about 869,000 households in this market were watching the game. And that also means that the next 17,000 items I write will be about the Redskins.)

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