The less Bill Brundige has to play against St. Louis guard Conrad Dobler, the happier the Redskin defensive tackle will be Saturday. And, more significantly, that means the high-powered Cardinal offense will be where it cannot hurt the Redskins: on the bench.
Dobler has earned the reputation as the dirtiest player in the National Football League. Brundige, who will line up opposite him in St. Louis Saturday when the losing team will be eliminated from the NFC wild-card race, cannot argue with Dobler's notoriety.
"If he had to play according to the rules, he'd be lousy," Brundige said yesterday at Redskin Park before getting treatment on his injured left foot. "He's known throughout the league and despised by everyone who's played against him.
"It's frustrating playing against him, frustrating because the officials let him get away with a lot of stuff. You can't retaliate because you're the one who always gets caught. If he swings at you and you swing back, the officials never see the first punch. So, it's very frustrating."
What's the dirtiest trick Dobler has tried on Brundige?
"Probably spearing me when I'm down," Brundige said. "You rush the passer and then, afte you lunge and hit the ground and the ball's been thrown and everything, you're laying there and he'll take a run and spear you.
"He's a very effective guard because they let him get away with the tripping, holding and all that kind of stuff. What he tries to do is intimidate the tackles and render them hopeless, I mean helpless."
Actually, Brundige meant both.
"You watch the films and the guy (opposite Dobler) was not even a factor," he continued. "Dobler has done as good a job (neutralizing an opponent) as anyone who ever played football. There are certain players in the league who might as well not show up. They're just completely ineffective . . . I'd hate like hell to go through life with the reputation he's got."
But what he says about Dobler does not mean Brundige has lost any respect for the Cardinal offense, which has scored only 21 points in the last two St. Louis games: a 55-14 thrashing by Miami and a 27-7 humiliation by the New York Giants.
Those are the two most recent developments in a see-saw season for the Cardinals, currently tied with the Redskins at 7-5 for second place in the NFC East. St. Louis lost three of its first four games, then won six in a row before the latest disasters.
"When you get right down to the fundamentals." said Redskin defensive assistant Kirk Mee, who has secuted the Cardinals' last three games, "the Giants and Miami won because their offenses controlled the game" and kept the St. Louis offense off the field.
"There is nothing wrong with the St. Louis Offense.
But there is with the St. Louis Defense, and the numbers the past two weeks speak for themselves."
Miami's offense held the ball 38 minutes 18 seconds and ran off 81 plays to the Cardinals' 53; New York had the ball even longer, 39 minutes 17 seconds, and ran 70 plays to the Cardinals '47. Until the past two game, the Cardinals had been averaging 66 plays and 22.4 point per game, including victories over Dallas and Minnesota.
Ball control, however, has not been a Redskin strength this season. Except for the earlier 24-14 win over the Cardinals - accomplished with Billy kilmer at quarterback rather than Saturday's expected starter. Joe Theismann - the Redskin offense has given its marvelous defense little rest.
"What's happened the past couple of weeks," said Mee, "is that the Cardinals have had a mass of injuries. They've lost their free safety. They're into their third cornerback on the left side this season. And you've had two linebacker changes."
The Cardinals now have two rookies, linebacker Eric Williams and cornerback Carl Allen, manning the left corner of their defense. Mary Kellum has replaced Tim Kearney at middle linebacker and jeff Severson has taken over for Mike over for Mike Sensibaugh at free safety.
Sensibaugh and cornerback Lee Neslon, whom Allen replaced, both went down in the game prior to the Miami debacle on Thanksgiving, the Cardinals' third game in 11 days.
"in the past they've done a good job at St. Louis playing with kind of a patched-up defense." Mee said. "They've had to struggle, but their defense always has been sound enough to keep a team from breaking a game open. They broke a bit the last two weeks. When they get to playing together a little bit and knowing what the other guy is doing, they'll be back."
In the past, St. Louis has been a good come-from-behind team because of its offensive firepower, as shown in recovering from 14-3 and 16-0 deficits to beat Dallas an Philadelphia this season.
Ray Willsey, coordinator of the St. Louis Defense, said the Cardinals have to get back to basics and not worry about trying to help out some of the recent additions to the starting defense.
"We don't have the type of player to be able to risk things," Willsey said. "We don't have many players who can cover two positions. We are not the Pittsburgh Steelers."
As expected, the Redskins placed fullback John Riggins on the injured reserve list. They signed for the third time, Howard Satterwhite, a wide receiver and special teams standout, to take Riggins' place on the roster. Satterwhite played 12 games with the New York Jets in 1976 and was cut by them prior to this season . . . Coach George Allen said he gave defensive end Will Wynn a tryout yesterday and may sign him if Brundige and fellow defensive tackle Dave Butz are not ready for the Cardinals . . . Brundige was on crutches yesterday, but said he will be ready for the Cardinals despite a sprained left foot. Butz practiced despite a sprained ankle . . . After the closed practice, sources said Joe Theismann will continue to be quarterback this week . . . Wide receiver Frak Grant (leg bruise) was unable to practice . . .