If you think David Whitehurst is quaking in his cleats about the prospect of making his starting debut as a NFL quarterback in a hositle stadium, against a savry defense with the whole country watching, then perhaps you had better think again.
"The pressure hasn't really set in yet and I'm not sure it will," said Whitehurst, the 22-year-old rookie quarterback who will start for the battered Green Bay Packers against the Redskin tonight at 9 at RKF Stadium (WJLA-TV-7). "But there's no way I'm scared or afraid, that would be stupid.
"Playing on Monday night doesn't add any more pressure. Shoot, starting any game right now would be tough. To tell you the truth, I just can't think of a better way to get started.
"Sure I'm concerened who wouldn't be? And I'm sure the announcers will make a big thing about it. You know how Howard (Cosell) talks about rookies. He doesn't think any of them can play. Maybe I can show him something different.
George Allen, of course, doesn't think much of inexperience players either, and surely he has prepared his Redskin defense to confound, confuse and control anything Whitehurst attempts.
Allen already has said he has added several new blitzes to his defensive arsenal, and he may also go into this personal armory for the shotgun offense his team has been practicing this week to give quarterback Joe Theismaann more time to find his receivers.
The Redskins, now 5-4, need a victory to stay in the race with the St. Louis Cardinals for the wild-card playoff berth in the National Football Conference. The Packers (2-7) would like to salvage a little pride and perhaps coach Bart Starr's job as well.
The oddsmakers say the Redskins are favored by 14 points, and the spread may get wider because Allen is now leaning toward starting Chris Hanburger at outside linebacker.
Hanburger has not played since the Tampa Bay game on Oct. 9, when he tore ligaments in his knee, and Whitehurst would love to see Allen keep his defensive signal-caller on the bench for one more week. But that apparently is not going to happen.
"I remember standing on the sideline and watching him play in our game in the preaseason (a 13-9 Redskin victory)," Whitehurst said. "It seemed like Hanburger knew every play we ran before we ran it. I expect the Redskins to throw everything at me. I expect them to try to confuse me totally.
"I'm sure they'll give me different fronts, shift around and try to make me audible. We'll just stick to our basic game plan and not do anything fancy. The coaches have stressed no turnovers and not throwing into coverage all week."
Redskin coaches have been preaching the same thing to their quartrback, Theismann. Everyone was impressed by his second-half passing against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but they are still concerned about Theismann's current turnover rate - an interception every 16 passes - and his tedency to throw into crowds.
When Joe forces things, that's when he gets into trouble," said offensive coordinator Charlie Waller. "I'm not being critical of him because he's making progress and he gets better and better every week."
"But sometimes Joe has a tendency to go for the big play too often. He knows this. We want him to take what the defense gives him and not force to go deep like a pitcher uses a changeup. You set them up for it, and you stay patient and those things will come."
If they do not come against the Packers, a team ranked 11th in the NFC in total defense, the Redskins ought to be ashamed of themselves.
The Packers this year have been far more vulnerable to the rush than the pass, ranking 13th against the run defensively among 14 NFC teams. They are a respectable fifth in the conference defending against the pass.
The Packer pass rush has recorded only 23 sacks - good news for a Redskin offensive line that has already allowed its quarterbacks to be dumped 40 times - and Green Bay has forced only 12 turnovers all season. For a Redskin offense that has been struggling all year to score points, the Packers seem the perfect remedy.
Allen may also use Calvin Hill more than he has all season. Rookie fullback Clarence Harmon suffered a sprained ankle last week and may not be able to play the entire game.
The Redskins should have little to fear from the Green Bay offense, which ranks 12th among conference teams. The Packers are 20th in the NFL in rushing, averaging 93 yards a game on the ground.
The Packers have scored only nine touchdowns all season and a total of 83 points. Opposing teams have also outscored them in the last quarter by a 55-7 margin. With Whitehurst at the controls in place of injured Lynn Dickey (broken leg), those totals should not swell this week, even if Starr and his staff will call all the plays. Former quarterback Starr would probably be better off activating himself.
The Packers do have decent special teams, although Chester Marcol doesn't get very many chances to kick field goals. He is seven for 12 this season, and seven for 10 inside the 50-yard line. Punter David Beverly, who almost beat out Mike Bragg for a job on the Redskins in 1974, kicks high and long and Green Bay punt coverage has been stingy all year.
The Redskins have the usual assortment of bumps and bruises. The major question mark will be the status of defensive and Dennis Johnson, who has been hurting with a sprained ankle. He may be replaced by second-year man Karl Lorch.