Music blared from the radio above the soft-drink machine. Some Redskins sat in front of their lockers munching on spareribs, their normal Thursday after-practice fare. Others were sitting in groups, laughing and telling jokes. Tony McGee started to sing loudly.
In two days, the Redskins would meet Dallas for the NFC title. But if this mostly young, playoff-inexperienced team was feeling the pressure, it didn't show.
"Everyone is loose and relaxed," tight end Don Warren suddenly said during an interview. He looked around the room. "It's been noticeable to me all week. The atmosphere in here. It's different than I've noticed for any other Dallas game since I've been here. Usually we are so pumped up by now that by the time we get to the game, we're too high and tight."
At the other end of the room, tight end Rick Walker had noticed it too. "I think this is the first time since I've been a Redskin that we've kept a game against Dallas in proper perspective," he said. "Let everyone else get caught up in the hoopla. All we are doing is taking care of business. We haven't screamed and hollered and made a lot of noise in the days before any win this year. So why change now?"
One of the most interesting and important aspects of this championship game buildup has been the way the Redskins have coped with the pressure.
Dallas is accustomed to being one game away from the Super Bowl; Washington is not. The Cowboys have a large corps of veterans with years of playoff experience. The Redskins have only 12 players who had been in even one playoff game prior to this season.
Dallas has stars and high-round draft choices; Washington has few prominent players and 26 free agents.
"I haven't noticed any changes this week in the players," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "We've won a lot of close games this year and I think we have developed a hardness to pressure.
"The players certainly seemed relaxed and loose. But people have been asking me all year to read this group.
"Hey, they are something. They always seem to take everything in stride."
Safety Tony Peters: "I feel good about this game. I'm not going to get into predictions. But there is a confidence here that makes me feel we will play well. Last time, we seemed to feel we had something to prove. There is no talk of that this time. We just want to play the game as well as we can."