The voice broke into a hearty laugh over the telephone line from Seattle.
"I'm not going to give them any ammunition to put on the bulletin board, you understand, right?" Rusty Tillman said. "I'm just trying to get ready for this game like any other game."
But it just isn't any game for Tillman, not when the Seattle Seahawks, the team that employs him as a special teams coach, are preparing for the Redskins, who signed his paychecks as a player for eight seasons.
Tillman was captain of Washington's special teams for most of the George Allen era. He was one of those high-spirited, hard-working players who won the hearts of Redskin fans by covering punts, bustling wedges and blocking field goals. And he was showered with the type of notoriety most career backup NFL linebackers only dream about.
Tillman did not end his career with Washington on a pleasant note, cut just before the start of the 1978 season by Coach Jack Pardee. "A real injustice," Tillman charged, pointing out how he had pushed himself to recover from knee surgery in early August in order to be ready for the regular season.
Tillman didn't like the way he was released, nor did he like what he saw happening to the Redskin special teams. John Hilton, the new special teams coach, was installing his own system. It didn't always conform to how Paul Lanham, Allen's teams' expert, did things.
"Mark my words," Tillman said, "they'll get a punt blocked before the year is over." And he was right. But the Redskins coverage teams also have continued to rank among the best in the league under Hilton.
"All that's water under the bridge now," Tillman said. "I'd rather not get into it." Tillman played too long for Allen, the master of the bulletin board psychology, to say more. But when asked if he was preparing a little harder than normal for this game, he replied: "What do you think?"
"It will be strange coming back," Tillman said. "You know, I've never been in the visiting team locker room at RFK. Not even once. And I've never heard the crowd rooting against me. Heard them yelling for us enough, and that was great."
Tillman admitted that the Redskin special teams "are still real good. It's seemed funny studying them on film. I can see some similarities to what we used to do, but there are some changes, too.
Many of those changes concern personnel. There aren't many players left from the Tillman era. Linebacker Pete Wysocki, who remains a close friend, has some special teams work and Dallas Hickman now is the teams captain. Mark Moseley remains the field goal kicker and Mark Murphy still is on the punt coverage unit.
Otherwise, new faces like Monte Coleman, Ray Waddy, Mike Nelms, Clarence Harmon and Mike Connell now are key members of those units. They are names Tillman has learned this week -- a week that has become long and tense for him.
"You get up-tight," Tillman said. "I know what the special teams mean to the Redskins, especially when they are going bad. Jack looks to them, just like George used to.
"Remember, I've been there. George was master of getting us to do something big for, the team when they really needed it. He wanted us to pull off a big play or recover a fumble or something to get everyone excited.
"It wouldn't surprise me to see them introduce the special teams before the game. That's something we would have done to get things going. If they get things going early, if they cause a turnover or something, the crowd will get into it and the whole team will get a lift from it.
"I know what they are thinking. We can't let them do anything big."
Tillman says his background with the Redskins "really has made this week harder for me to prepare for them. I have nine years of experience with them and I know how they think. But sometimes that can hurt you."
Much of what Tillman learned as a Redskin has been transferred to the Seahawks. But there has been an extraflair added by Head Coach Jack Patera that was lacking in Washington's more conservative, high-percentage approach.
Seattle will try surprise on-side kicks, or pass from punt formation or line its field goal kicker up as a wide receiver. And the Seahawks don't wait until the end of the game to try any of these tricks.
"I design them (the plays) and Jack calls them," Tillman said. "Really, they just even off the odds. If teams don't think we will try an on-side kick, they can cheat on kickoff returns. They can move their blockers back quicker.
"But if they have to stay aware of an on-side kick, it freezes them more, it makes them more honest on their blocking. It just makes things the way they should be."
This is Tillman's first coaching job, and he says he has found his duties "frustrating at times. It's not like when you were playing. You could go out and do it right. But it's frustrating when you tell someone how to do it and they still do it wrong."
"I always thought coaching was going to be fun, but this is work."
Still, Tillman says he is enjoying his job.
"What I'm trying to do here is get the same kind of feeling about special teams as we had in Washington. That was such a great time, I've never enjoyed anything as much as I did that.
"We had a real close group on the Redskin special teams. We had guys who wanted to do a heck of a job on the teams, who knew what was expected of them and where they fitted in.
"But getting that kind of feeling without a lot of veterans around is tough.We are still a young team, a real young team. You need to have veterans for a lot of things; for stability, for leadership, to show people how to win, to show good study habits and good work habits on and off the field.
"But we are coming around. We are beginning to have a few older players who can set up a tradition. But heck, one guy is 31 here and they call him the Old Man. At 31, can you believe that?"
Tillman harbors ambitions to become a defensive coach and then, eventually, a head coach. But he says he is in no hurry.
"I've only been coaching for two years and I was just fortunate to be able to start on this level," he said.
At least statistically, the Redskins special teams appear to have an edge over Tillman's units. Washington averages longer kickoffs and punt returns and is more stingy on opponent returns in both categories. Seahawk punter Herman Weaver, however, has a better average then Connell, while field goal kicker Efren Herera and the Redskins' Mark Moseley are among the best in the business.
Dan Peiffer continued to run with the first-string offense yesterday and will start Sunday at center against the Seahawks. Pardee said it was doubtful that middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz or tight end Don Warren would get into the game because of injuries. Pardee said Zion McKinney, the current backup tight end has a sore leg and might not be able to play. If he can't, then either guard Dan Nugent, a former college tight end, or wide receiver John McDaniel would have to fill in if starter Rick Walker goes down during the game.