There were fine linebackers before Sam Huff; there have been fine linebackers since - the he has seen most of them, which makes the compliment he paid Brad Dusek all the more significant.

"One of the greatest games I've ever seen a linebacker play," Huff said of Dusek's performance Monday night. "Guys go through entire careers without ever playing that well. You play like that once in a lifetime."

Dusek did everything but keep the RFK Stadium clock from flashing bad information much of the night, with nearly twice as many tackles as anyone else on the field (11), two solo quarterback sacks and a shared kill with Diron Talbert.

Of course, those were the packers, not the Packers on display - and somewhere Vince Lombardi, who had intimate ties with both teams, must have wailed after the 10-9 affair: "What is going on here?"

Probably, Seneca Valley could have kept both offense out of the end zone, although once the Redskins did manage to score a touchdown, midway through the fourth quarter, victory seemed assured.

One could imagine Dave Whitehurst leading the Packers within Chester Marcol's exceptional field-goal range even if Len Haus and Terry Hermeling had not escorted Mike Thomas far enough to force critical Green Bay timeouts before surrendering the ball with 39 seconds left.

The Redskin defense simply would have unfettered another blitz to confuse the Packers. Monday, the Whitehurst Freeway led to the Green Bay quarterback, and nobody got there quicker or with more enthusiasm than the linebacker who never played linebacker much before joining the Redskins.

Dusek is one of those rare athletes who says a lot without talking much. Once during his special-team days, he gave the returner a wicked lick - and the dazed fellow growled loudly that it had been a late hit.

"If you don't want to get hit," Dusek said, don't catch the damn ball."

Nearly every Redskin except Dusek either has a local radio or television deal or some sort of paid communication with the faithful. Possibly, Dusek does not because he would have to endure all those Aggie jokes that follow anyone who played for Texas A&M.

Anyway, Dusek has been making solid points ever since George Allen managed to wsipe him from the Patriots four years ago in exchange for a young defensive lineman quickly forgotten in the NFL, Donnell Smith.

"He could have been the greatest special-teams player in history," said the leading authority on the matter, Rusty Tillman. "Maybe even as good as Ike Kelly of the Eagles, who's the best I've ever seen."

But Dusek got promoted, replacing a man who was very likely the finest left linebacker the NFL has seen, Dave Robinson. Not before swiping the limelight once from Tillman and the other Redskin headhunters.

Tillman jokes: "You remember the 42-0 game with the Bears? Well, it got kind dull for TV, so they isolate Brad on this one kickoff. And he busts two guys in the wedge and the announcers go wild. They show it over and over.

"Me, I been bustin' wedges eight years, taking out three guys and even making the tackle - and he gets national coverage for one play."

If not a regular Monday night highlight, Dusek has reserved those games for some of his finest plays. Last season, he recovered a fumble and returned it for a touchdown just before halftime of the Eagles game in Philadelphia.

Dusek generally was spectacular the entire game against the Packers, although one of the least-noticed plays most impressed linebacker connoisseur Huff.

"There's screen set up to the side of the field completely across from him," said Huff. "And Dusek runs all the way over and makes the tackle. He did everything, strung plays out, stuffed the tight end, made tackles, whatever it took."

Well into his fourth year, Dusek seems comfortable with the position, having been a fullback and safety most of his career at A&M and having been exposed to a Redskin defensive playbook that would resemble "War and Peace" if Tolstoy had not written so tightly.

"And he has a chance to play 10 or 12 years in this league," said Talbert, "because he's tough. He plays with bumps (dislocated shoulders, sprain-ankles). Ifyou're willing to play hurt, you can last a while up here."