Washington Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley kept flipping through the sports pages of the Dallas newspapers yesterday, giggling about all those angry words the Cowboys were firing at the Redskins.
Of course the Cowboys say the Redskins fired first, when running back John Riggins said all those naughty words about Dallas' uniforms being more wonderful than the men inside.
Manley loves to talk mean to the Cowboys, half in fun, half not in fun. "That's because I'm from Texas," he said yesterday, "and because I don't like the Cowboys . . . They can say things and I've got to sit back and take them. That's just Dallas. They've always been that way for the last 10-15 years."
"It wasn't a cheap shot," Cowboys quarterback Danny White told a Dallas newspaper this week about the play when Manley knocked White unconscious in last year's 31-17 Redskins victory in the NFC title game. "But I can't wait until we score our first touchdown (Monday night). And maybe after we beat them, I'll walk over to Dexter and say, 'I owed you this one.' "
Manley giggled again, like a man who knows when he hears fightin' words.
"And maybe when he walks over to me," Manley said, "I'll chew his head off."
These two sides keep meeting at the pass, dodging verbal crossfire.
"It's becoming interesting," Dallas Coach Tom Landry said over the phone, addressing the warring words of which bulletin boards and rivalries are made. "It helps some players, it probably hinders others. It adds more fuel to the game."
It's nothing new, Landry said. "Washington with (former coach George) Allen was always kind of a controversial game because of the way Coach Allen tried to psyche us out."
In the early '70s the Redskins player who often did the pre-Dallas psyching was Diron Talbert, the defensive tackle. He wore No. 72.
Same as Manley.
"The trainers were just telling me a little while ago that Diron once said before one Dallas game that Roger Staubach used to sleep with one of those little night lights on," said Manley, laughing hard. "Can you believe that?"
Manley's name was mentioned prominently in the Dallas papers this week. Offensive tackle Phil Pozderac implied that Manley played dirty. Defensive tackle Randy White said bullfeathers when a Dallas reporter asked about the time during training camp when Manley said that he could make some exciting plays that White could not.
"Sounds like they are getting nervous," Manley said.
Always, the Dallas papers mentioned the second-quarter play in the NFC title game when Manley steamed through the Dallas front line at the Washington 32 to knock White unconscious.
"That particular play," said Manley, the third-year player who grew up in Houston, "put my name on the map. I just wanted to make a good hit. I thought he might have broken his collarbone on that play, the way he grabbed his shoulder. I was glad when I heard that it wasn't that, that I had only rung his bell.
"I think they might start cheap-shotting against me (Monday night)," Manley said. "Why? I guess because I have always been outspoken. Then I knocked out the so-called 'America's quarterback' when they were moving the ball in the second quarter. And then I knocked down that (Gary Hogeboom) pass that (defensive tackle Darryl) Grant caught and scored the last touchdown (which gave the Redskins the 31-17 lead with seven minutes left to play). Those were the two biggest plays of the game. Quite naturally, they were upset."
Washington quarterback Joe Theismann said of all this pre-game hype, "You don't play games in newspapers. I have tremendous respect for Dallas and deep down inside, I think they have tremendous respect for us."
Manley agreed about the mutual respect. "Quite naturally, they are mad we beat them in that championship game. They will come in smoking. But we will have 55,000 of the greatest fans in America there. When I heard we were playing Dallas in the season opener on national television on a Monday night, I got pumped up and I haven't stopped thinking about it ever since.
"It will be a challenge. I'll look forward to it. I'm looking forward to this game like it was the NFC championship game. I don't want to do it by talking. I want to do it by performing. Now is the chance for us to reveal ourselves, to show that we can beat Dallas again."
Dexter Manley laughed long and hard, again thwacking his finger against the pages from Dallas that told of impending doom. Then, he said, "I'm ready."