Tony Dorsett has never played against the Washington Redskins, but his friends on the Dallas Cowboys apparently have him in the proper frame of mind. "I don't know that much about the rivalry," he said, "but all the veterans tell me the same thing: its war. Hey, I can't wait."
And neither can Redskin coach George Allen, who took his team to Texas this afternoon for Sunday's 4 p.m. shoot-em up with an undefeated Cowboy team that can seriously damage the Redskins' chances for a division title with a victory Sunday. The game will be televised on WTOP-TV-9.
Allen said today he has come up with a special defense for Dosett, the Cowboys' leading rusher. "If Dorsett might just go out and tackle him myself. I've got to tackle him high. I'll shoot for his belt buckle."
The Redskins are shooting for their fourth victory in five games, but they know that a loss in Dallas would probably mean spending the rest of the season fighting for a wild-card berth with Chicago, Atlanta and, maybe, St. Louis.
The oddsmakers say that is a very distinct possibility, because they rate the Cowboys as nine-point favorites, a figure Allen admitted yesterday was "the biggest point spread we've had (against the Redskins)." He also conceded it was probably justified.
"We haven't played a team as good as Dallas," he said. "They're playing in Dallas and the teams they've played that we've played (Tampa bay and New York), the difference (in scores) has been pronounced. Except for one game (the Redskin victory over St. Louis), we haven't played as a complete team. So I can see that type of reasoning."
Even though both teams have loaded up the injury reports with players sporting every bump and bruise imaginable (Dallas listed 14 Wednesday, Washington eight), the Redskins really are hurting.
Linebacker Chris Handburger, suffering from a sprained knee, once again did not practice in the Redskins' final workout today, and although he made the trip, Allen ruled him out of action for the Cowboys. He will be replaced by Mike Curtis, and safety Ken Houston will call defensive signals.
"It's the first time Chris hasn't played against Dallas," Allen said. "Losing him is a big factor because they're tough to defense."
Defensive tackle Dave Butz, who missed the Tampa Bay game with a sprained ankle, also has not practiced all week and will probably join Handburger on the taxi squad. He will be replaced by Bill Brundige at left tackle. That is a big plus for the pass rush and a small minus for the defense against the run.
And cornerback Pat Fischer, with his ailing back, apparently will not start, judging from today's final practice. Second-year man Gerard Williams worked exclusively with the first-team defense, and Allen said he was definitely leaning toward starting him. "Pat is a little better," he said, "but I don't know if he's ready."
Allen is expected to open with Mike Thomas, despite the little tailback's large midweek blowup over being forced to practiced despite the pain from his pulled hamstring. "I haven't made up my mind on that," Allen said, but Thomas knows better.
"I'm planning starting," Thomas said. "And a big game would be nice."
So, too, would a quick start. The Redskins have scored a total of only 20 points in the first four games. The Cowboys have scored 67. Dallas is also averaging 27 points a game, the sputtering Redskins 15.
"Offensively, you aren't going to beat the Cowboys in a low-scoring game," Allen said. "We did it once (14-7 in 1973), but it doesn't happen very often. It will take three touchdowns and a field goal and the defense will have to hold them to 21 points."
Ideally, the Redskins would like to play a ball-control, kill-the-clock offense all day, the better to keep Roger Staubach, Drew Pearson and, of course, Dorsett, off the field as much as possible.
"They've got a lot of home-run hitters," Allen said. "They're a hell of a football team. It's also been a strange week for us. A lot of things (Thomas' comments, the nagging injuries to so many key players) came up differently than usual for a big week.
"I know this: if we play Redskin football, we can take them. There' not the slightest doubt in my mind about that."
No, the Redskins are hardly quaking in their ripple-soled shoes over the prospect of facing a Cowboy team ranked No. 1 in total offense and rushing offense and No. 3 in total offense in the NFC.
The Redskins, although they are yielding 271 yards a game in total offense, have allowed only four touchdowns and a total of 40 points in their first four games.
No Redskins team since the 1943 club has been that stingy through the first four games.
"Yeah we're playing good and we can play even better," said tackle Diron Talbert, the Cowboy-baiter extraordinaire who was in usual form this week.
"Nah. I don't get on 'em like I used to. I've really got nothing against any of their players, really, not even Roger. My beef's mostly with the organizations because they just don't pay those guys very much, except for a couple of 'em.
"I told somebody this week that Roger and Dorsett were the only two guys who could afford to eat at The Chateaubriand (a swank Dallas restaurant). Everybody else has to eat at McDonaald's."
"That's about all I've got for Roger this week. He's gotten to where he's doing most of the talking now. I'm glad see he's not scared to talk, anyway."
"To win," Allen said, "we have to play by far, by far, our best game of the season. What the heck, it's a game for the division, with first place at stake. And this is the best team we've faced this year."
A Redskin pep rally a block from the club's facility near Dules Airport drew 250 people . . .Security man Ed (Double O) Boynton was released from the hospital Tuesday and was back in action despite a very sore back. Boynton made the trip to Dallas. "He'll play hurt if he has to," said a team physician who asked not to be identified . . .Billy Kilmer celebrated the end of practice today by throwing a football at a reporter's head. It was a typical Kilmer pass, low, in the dirt, wobbly and off target by 10 feet.