Can anyone remember the last time Dallas week was this quiet? Or meant so little to Washington? Or didn't attract a spy from either camp?
One of the professional sports' greatest rivalries is only three days away, yet the Redskins practiced in eerie silence for two hours yesterday, and one had to listen closely to hear even a mention of the hated Cowboys.
"It is pretty quiet around here for a practice session during Dallas week," said Coach Jack Pardee. "Usually, it's hyped pretty good around here by this time."
Pardee was a member of George Allen's legions in the crusades against the Cowboys in 1971 and '72. But of all the Redskins who spent the '70s battling Cowboys, probably none, with the exception of Allen, did more to spice the rivalry than defensive tackle Diron Talbert, who has played 19 regular season games against them.
Talbert has chased all the Cowboys but none with more vigor than Roger Staubach, who as a CBS commentator now plays even less than Talbert. If Talbert feels strangely about this week, he isn't alone. Not since 1970, when the Redskins were 4-7 going into Dallas has the game meant so little.
"It's unusual for it to be this quiet during Dallas week," Talbert said yesterday. "Many people might think this is a meaningless game because we're 3-8 and Dallas has only lost three games. But it's still Dallas, and we need to win badly, for our own pride. This may be hard to believe, but I don't see this game as being any different from all the other Dallas games I've played in. It'll be a clash. Fought just as hard as it should be on both sides of the line."
Talbert paused for a moment, fidgeted with his graying beard, his skyblue eyes becoming more intense. "We are up for this game. It's fun to play Dallas. It's a shame every football game can't be played that way. Even the young guys on this club know what this game means."
By now Talbert was on a roll. He began recalling games that many of his teammates sitting around him in the locker room could only remember watching on television in their youth.
"Remember the time in '71 in the Cotton Bowl in the rain when we beat them, 20-16, and (Charley) Harraway ran for that long touchdown. And the NFC championship game in '72 when (Billy) Kilmer and Charley Taylor put on the great show. And the Thanksgiving Day game in '74 when Clint Longley came in for Staubach and knocked us out with that long touchdown pass with only a few seconds left on the darn clock. Of course, the one we lost last year was some game, too."
Then, suddenly catching himself, Talbert said, "I didn't mean to ramble, but there are five or six Cowboys games I can remember every detail of, off the top of my head.
"The main thing is that when we play the Cowboys it's playing the organization, more than playing the team. They've always been such a Gestapo-like organization," he continued.
"I'm sure that a lot of their players, after seeing film of our games, might overlook us at first. But they have to win if they intend to catch Philadelphia. As soon as they see us, the hate will come back and our record won't mean anything to them. It'll be a fight to the finish."
For that to happen, the drowning Redskins will have to battle the Cowboys with more than pride.Dallas is the NFL's highest scoring team, with 321 points, and it ranks high in all offensive categories, averaging 371 yards a game. Danny White, completing nearly 62 percent of his passes, has improved considerably since that emotional Monday night in RFK Stadium when he almost gave the season opener to the Redskins.
"That was the first time out," Pardee said. "He threw two interceptions early and they were more or less keeping Danny out of trouble the rest of the way. They don't use that approach anymore."
Continued Talbert, "We have to prepare for Danny White the same way we prepared for Staubach. They are very similar in some ways."
While Talbert insisted that Sunday's game will be played with the same fervor of most Cowboy-Redskin contests, he became nostalgic when he talked of the old days.
"It was just great," he said. "And it still is."
"Just because the whole town isn't excited doesn't mean we can afford to be that way," Pardee said. "Dallas still thinks they can catch Philadelphia. We can be the spoilers. I'd like to still cause Dallas some misery."
Injured quarterback, Joe Theismann underwent more treatments for his pulled right hamstring yesterday, and backup Mike Kruczek did all the heavy work in practice. "Joe did some jogging, but nothing full speed," Pardee said. "He'll be listed as questionable the rest of this week. That probably won't even change right up until game time". . . Running back Clarence Harmon practiced only lightly because of a twisted ankle.