On the practice field this week, the Redskins have acted as if the eight-week players' union strike never had occurred.
But in the locker room, the strike and its aftermath have dominated conversations. Many players are unhappy and frustrated. Some are angry. And most are still struggling with one question: was the walkout worth it?
Aware of the unrest, Coach Joe Gibbs asked for help from Mark Murphy, the Redskins player representative.
"I was going to hold a team meeting after practice on Thursday to go over the contract with the players," Murphy said. "I told him that. But he said, 'Let's do it before practice.' "
Gibbs: "You could see them talking about the contract a lot, each guy had a different question, he wanted to know a different aspect of how it affected him. They were trying to do the job on the field, but I knew there were distractions. I just felt something had to be done right away before it was too late. So I asked Mark to have his meeting and let the players hash it out, so we could turn all our attention to the Giants."
After that meeting, Gibbs had one of his own. He talked to the players about the attributes of a winning team. He showed them highlights of the Redskins' opening-game victory over Philadelphia in September. He reviewed squad goals. It became an indirect pep talk.
"Each team in the league has to cope with the problem of the players still being concerned about the strike and the agreement," Gibbs said. "To me, how each team handles that part, and is able to concentrate instead on their opponent, will determine to a large extent who wins on Sunday. That's why I wanted to get it taken care of right away."
Gibbs said that yesterday's practice was the best of the week, that the concentration level increased, that the Redskins have settled down.
Even so, the labor situation still seems to be uppermost in the minds of many.
Everything has happened so fast: the tentative agreement, the rush to begin practice, the quick preparations for a game, the still-pending votes on the agreement, the constant reports of other teams in the league threatening not to play Sunday. It has been a week like none before in league history, and the players have been caught in the turmoil.
"It isn't abnormal to be concerned and disgusted, considering everyone was hoping for a better settlement," halfback Joe Washington said. "Besides, no one has seen the written proposal yet. Put yourself in the same situation. Everyone is back, but no one knows for sure if the strike is over or whether we'll accept the agreement. Once we take a vote and find out where we go from here, it will be better.
"Was the strike worth it? We came up with something more than we had before we went out, so it had to be worth it."
Murphy: "The one consolation about what's happening is that every team in the league is going through the same thing. Players are calling me still, asking me about the contract, wondering how we wound up with what we got. But we are professional enough not to let that affect our play on Sunday.
"Some players are happy with it. Others are just glad to be back playing and it would be damn tough to get them back out on strike again. The older players see the severance pay and like it. But not many of the younger players are very happy. They don't see any benefits for them until way down the road. The guys who are most pro-union are the ones who are most upset, because they put a lot of energy into trying to get a better agreement."
Said one young Redskin: "We went out eight weeks and what did we get for it? Nothing, really. I wouldn't say I am angry, but I'm frustrated and disappointed. I expected more after eight weeks. It's not the fault of the union leadership either. We should be mad at ourselves, because some players voted to go with management. That killed us."
The Redskins remain a pro-union team, but they aren't united. Yet, both Gibbs and Murphy believe any conflicts within the squad won't carry over to Sunday. Quarterback Joe Theismann, who opposed a walkout, agrees.
"This team has the ability to talk things out in meetings and be very open with each other," Theismann said. "But you can't carry that out onto the field, and I don't think we do. Murph did a hell of a job keeping us informed and that certainly helped our situation.
"Was the strike worth it? No strike is really worth it, but I don't think we could have gotten what's in the proposed agreement without the strike."
Receiver Art Monk: "It doesn't seem like much of an agreement. I know I didn't benefit from it much. The object of going on strike is to get something accomplished through negotiations, but what we have won't give many players a lot of money right away. It was affecting us, but I think Coach Gibbs helped solve it. And the meeting with Mark Murphy helped clear the air. Things are better, no doubt about it.
"Was the strike worth it? Even though it's basically the same agreement as they offered before, I think it was. Our medical and insurance benefits and rights are better and now there is severance pay. At least we got something."
Gibbs said he likely would activate Washington for the Giants game, but definitely would not suit up fullback Wilbur Jackson. Washington had been on injured reserve following knee surgery . . . "I'm still rusty but I definitely see progress every day," Washington said. Gibbs said he isn't sure how much Washington will play, but he has put in a full practice week, alternating with John Riggins . . . Linebacker Monte Coleman has a sore shoulder, the result of a collision with Otis Wonsley during Thursday's workout . . . Like other league teams, the Redskins no longer have to designate four of their 49 active players for the weekly taxi squad. All 49 now can dress for games.