As the Dallas players walked from the field after their season-opening victory over the Redskins yesterday, Cowboy defensive end Harvey Martin made it a point to seek out the man who had blocked him most of the day: Mark May, the Redskin rookie tackle.
"That's right," May said. "He just came up to me and said: 'You're a heck of a rookie and you're gonna have a great career. Keep it up.' He showed me some class, very definitely. All week long I'd heard from people that Martin would be jawing at me the first few plays. He did, but after a while, I think he knew I was going to be after him every play. We just went at each other the rest of the day."
The same could be said for the rest of May's teammates on the offensive line, a unit that had four men starting their first National Football League game, against a Cowboy front four many consider to be the best in the game.
"Our kids just went after 'em, " Joe Bugel, the offensive line coach, said. "You can't be excited or elated after a loss, but after the game, Coach (Joe) Gibbs told them they played well enough to win. My own feeling is that we can really build from what we saw today.
"Dallas' front four . . . are great pass rushers. Obviously our line was the biggest question mark going in. I don't think you can say that after what they did out there.
"I know this: I'm going to give them a lot of lovin' and kissin' this week. They need lots more tender loving care, and they'll get it."
Certainly the Redskin game plan indicated the coaches' confidence in their offensive line. It is an axiom in the NFL that it is far more difficult for a young lineman to master pass blocking than run blocking. Yet, the Redskins kept throwing today, 49 times in all, one short of the team record.
"We felt our kids could handle it," Bugel said. "They probably are better run blockers right now, but we felt Dallas was so strong against the run our best chance to win would be to throw."
The Redskins obviously would have had a better chance if Joe Theismann hadn't been intercepted four times. At times, Theismann seemed to rush his throws, and Bugel was asked if he had the same impression.
"Well, it looked from the sideline like if he'd stood in there maybe a fraction of a second longer . . ." he said, not finishing the sentence. "But I can't second-guess Joe from where I'm standing. I don't know what he sees. We did think the protection was good enough to keep throwing the football."
Said Theismann: "I felt our offensive line was super. They passed the test 100 percent."
They also showed more than a bit of feist against the Cowboys. May and White also had quite a bit to say to each other during and after the game, particularly when May knocked White down when White tried to block him on a Cowboy interception return in the third quarter.
"I just saw him coming after me out of the corner of my eye," May said. "Yeah, I got him pretty good, and I guess Randy White doesn't like to get blocked. He got a little angry. Yeah, he came over after the game, too, but wasn't saying anything nice. That's all I want to say about it, but he was definitely not happy."
Redskin rookie guard Russ Grimm, who played against White most of the day, said he was generally satisfied with his play against the all-pro.
"The first couple of plays I was kinda shaky," Grimm said. "I had watched the guy on film so much, but it's still not the same. He was a lot quicker than I expected, but it got down to the point where we had a real battle out there. I thought I did all right.
"All of us were really looking forward to the game. You heard so much about our line during the preseason, and for a lineman it was a chance of a lifetime. Really, how many times do people actually watch the offensive line? So we all went out there trying to prove something. We didn't do a real great job, but we weren't too shabby, either.
"Basically, we're satisfied. No, wait a minute. Let's just say we're happy, not satisfied. There's still a whole lot of things we have to improve."