Thomas Henderson says he has one last message for the Washington Redskin.
"Tell him I said, "Ha, ha, hee, hee. I'm serious. I meant every word I said. They are turkeys," the brash Dallas Cowboy linebacker said yesterday as his team went through final preparations for today's showdown against the Redskin at Texas Stadium.
Henderson first referred to the Redskins as turkeys on Sunday after the Cowboys walloped the New Orleans Saints and the Redskins fell to the St. Louis Cardinals, leaving Washington and Dallas tied for the NFC East divi-skin lead with 8-4 records.
The Redskins didn't take kindly to Henderson's calling them names and fullback John Riggins countered by calling Henderson a hot dog, among other things.
Henderson said he is having a good time and didn't care how the Redskins interpreted his remarks or what they thought of him.
"It got coordinated with Thaksgiving and all of that," Henderson said. "The setting was there. I'm not a particular fan of the Redskins so I called them turkeys.
"If all 45 of them want to come ofter me instead of playing football, then that's fine. I'll run into the bleachers if I have to, but I can handle myself."
Asked if he thought he was getting the Redskins riled up, Henderson said he could care less.
"Some people, even some of my teammates, ask me how I can say stuff like that. I can and they can't because I can back it up." Henderson said. "They might feel the same way, but they just don't have the nerve to say it.
"Me, I'll say anything. If my mouth gets me in trouble, then I'll always have to stay in trouble."
Not all of the Cowboys are as loose and arrogant as Henderson, but they are all confident that right now they are a much better team than the Redskins and that they will demonstrate that fact in grand fashion today.
"It's a whole different thing this time around," said defensive and Harvey Martin. "We weren't ourselves when we played them the first time. We've got a football team now, though. Let's see what happens this time."
The Cowboys are indeed a different team than the one that lost to the Redskins, 9-5, at RFK Staidum Oct. 2. That was the only game this season in which the Cowboys, who lead the NFC in points scored, passing, rushing and total offense, failed to score a touchdown.
Henderson was hampered in that game by a sprained ankle, Martin had a bad knee, tackle Rayfield Wright wasn't playing and, as a whole, the Cowboys simply had no life.
"Every team has to go through that phase of not playing well, even us," Wright said. "We're entirely different now than when we played them the first time. I think they'll see the difference."
"We had the reputation at the beginning of the year that we could be intimidated," added wide receiver Drew Pearson. "Not anymore. Everything is at stake Thanksgiving Day and it's going to be a great game."
The Cowboys will be without one regular, fullback Robert Newhouse, who broke a bone in his right leg Sunday. His replacement will be Scott Laidlaw.
Eight other Cowboys are listed as probable for the game because of various bumps and bruises, but all will definitely play, the Cowboys said.
It has been raining in Dallas for the last few days, but it is expected to clear today.
The Cowboys, defending Super Bowl champions, have not been alone in first place in the division this season.
"If we win, we're in great position," said Coach Tom Landry. "Even if we somehow end up tied for the division title, we'll win it because of the tie-breaking criteria.If we lose this game, it still won't be over, but it will be hard on us."
Landry is a little more coy than his players about predicting an outcome. "Washington got off to a tremendous start and usually when that happens, you'll flatten out of it, but will usually come back. I expect them to come back, but I don't know if it will be this week."
Quarterback Roger Staubach, the conference's second-leading passer, said, "This is as big a game as there could be. We both put ourselves in this situation."
Tony Dorsett, the second-leading rusher in the NFC with 1,020 yards, has run for 301 yards in the last two games and, with Newhouse out, is expected to carry the ball upwards of 25 times today.
"That's what I've always wanted - to carry the baill," Dorsett said.
Henderson, now nicknamed "Mustard" by his teammates because of Riggins' (hot dog) comments about him, is the Cowboy with the last word.
"One more thing," he said yesterday. "Look at this," and he pulled out a scrapbook and turned to a page with a big picture of himself next to a picture of Landry pointing to him.
Under the picture, it said:
From the fiery evangelist who rocked a nation . . .
To the rebel analyst who dared defy Freud . . .
To the pilot whose last flight became a legend . . .
Now! the excitement of Thomas Henderson.
"Make sure the Redskins see that."