The Philadelphia Eagles may be 2-7 this season, but the team's record against the Washington Redskins in 1990s -- -and, more significantly, its record against the Redskins at Veterans Stadium -- suggests that Sunday's game will be a tough fight.
The Redskins are 6-12 against the Eagles since 1990. At the unfriendly environs of Philadelphia's Vet, the Redskins are 1-8 this decade, winning only in 1996, by 26-21.
Raucous Eagles fans make it a particularly hostile place to play, and the unforgiving Astro Turf that covers a concrete surface makes it brutal on players' joints.
Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson has played there just once, and the memory is vivid.
"It's not one of the better turfs to play on, by any means," Johnson said. "I think if you took a poll, it's probably one of the worst turfs you can play on. It's very hard, like cement, as a turf. There are have been some injuries there that have been noted. You can't worry about that. You just have to go out there and play football."
Running back Brian Mitchell calls it the worst field in the NFL and thinks that in time, it will be replaced. "I think eventually the NFL is going to realize you're putting us in a hazardous situation and eventually, they'll pull it up," Mitchell said. "But I don't think of that when I'm playing on it. I don't go any slower or try to be any more cautious [on it]."
Then there is the added dimension of Eagles fans. Fullback Larry Centers knows them well, having played nine seasons for the Arizona Cardinals. "The attitude of the fans, the way they come at you -- it makes it a tough place to play," Centers said.
The Eagles home crowd got a black eye earlier this season when some in the stands cheered a chilling injury to Dallas wide receiver Michael Irvin, who was carried off the field on a stretcher after a tackle left him motionless. Philadelphia Coach Andy Reid downplayed that response this week, saying that too much was made of the poor behavior of a few.
As Centers and Mitchell know, Eagles fans have also been known to jeer their own. "It will be important for us to hopefully create some mistake by them early because their fans are so fickle that if they make some mistakes early, maybe we can get some of those fans on our side," Centers said.
Added Mitchell: "They'll turn on their team in a heartbeat."
Johnson claims the atmosphere won't rattle him.
"I really don't care what the atmosphere is like," Johnson said. "They're going to boo you and call your mama names. That's just part of it. You can't get caught up in that. The game is played on the field."
BOOK WORK: Mitchell, the Redskins' longtime return specialist, is reading a book called "Who Moved My Cheese?" that he credits with helping him step up his game this season.
Its central analogy is this, according to Mitchell: Life is like a maze, and the cheese is what you want out of life.
"It's about how to turn the negative into positive," said Mitchell, who was given the book by a friend. "I've been dealing with a lot of stuff lately. My cheese is to get to the playoffs."
Mitchell has struggled to get his customary yardage on returns this season, partly because of turnover on special teams and the blocking lapses that have resulted. Sunday against Buffalo, Coach Norv Turner had Mitchell hand off to James Thrash on a reverse on the opening kickoff.
Mitchell went on, however, to have one of his better games. He returned three kickoffs for 86 yards. Entering Sunday's game against Philadelphia, he needs just 4 yards to surpass Billy "White Shoes" Johnson (3,317 yards) for second-place all-time in punt-return yardage.
QUICK HITS: When the Redskins regrouped for practice this week, guard Rod Milstead, who had been released by the team last month and resigned on Tuesday, had a sign on his locker that read, "Come in, We're Open". . . . Two Redskins are among the current and former NFL players who received grants from NFL Charities for their non-profit foundations. They are cornerback Darrell Green, for his Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation, and backup quarterback Rodney Peete, for his Holly Rod Foundation, formed with his wife, Holly Robinson. NFL Charities awarded nearly $1 million this year to 73 non-profit foundations established by current and former players. . . . Fans' voting for selections to Pro Bowl 2000 continues through Dec. 7. Ballots of NFL fans, players and coaches each count one-third toward setting the 43-man rosters representing the AFC and NFC in the annual all-star game. Rosters will be announced Dec. 22. The Redskins had one Pro Bowl selection last year, punter Matt Turk. To vote via the Internet, log onto www.NFL.com.