Two thoughts crisscrossed the Washington Redskins locker room yesterday afternoon, one of promise and one of protest.
The promise was the cool grace shown in practice by wide receiver Art Monk, who is eligible to come off the injured reserve list for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Raiders (4-0) at RFK Stadium.
"Physically, Art is 100 percent," said trainer Bubba Tyer. Monk sprained a ligament in his left knee in a preseason game against Cincinnati on Aug. 12 and hasn't played since.
"The ligament has mended, the leg is strong. Art is ready. Now, it's up to the coaches," said Tyer.
When Monk was injured in the final regular-season game last year (he missed the postseason), the Redskins created the Fun Bunch, an end zone dance that celebrates touchdowns. It was created, players say, to unite the team in Monk's absence. This year, though, there have been no Fun Bunch dances.
Rick Walker, tight end and creator of the Fun Bunch, said yesterday that this will change. "The Fun Bunch will return this week. We're bringing it back this week because we anticipate the return of Art Monk. And Art will jump with us . . . it unifies us and it gives us a lift."
With an eyebrow raised with a coach's standard skepticism, however, Coach Joe Gibbs said, "Art's status is the same. We'll work him hard in practice for one more day and we'll see what happens. We want to be certain. We don't want to bring him back too soon."
The Redskins must decide whether to activate Monk by 4 p.m. Saturday. If Monk is activated, the Redskins must cut one player from the active roster to make space.
Chewing on a barbecued rib in the locker room yesterday, Monk maintained his weeks-long semi-silence on his situation. Asked if he'll play Sunday, Monk flashed a smile, something that had disappeared from his demeanor when he disappeared from the field. Obviously, his confidence is returning with his speed.
"We'll see," he said. Then, he turned the other way.
The protest came from two pass interference calls against tight end Don Warren, both in crucial situations.
The first was in the fourth quarter of the 31-30 loss to Dallas. On third and five from the Dallas 14, Warren caught an eight-yard pass for an apparent first down. It was nullified by offensive pass interference, moving the ball back to the Dallas 24. Mark Moseley ended the drive, missing a 31-yard field goal that would have given the Redskins a 26-17 lead.
The second call came in a similar situation, in the third quarter of Sunday's 27-17 victory over Seattle. On second and 10 from the Seattle 14, Warren caught a three-yard pass, but was called for pass interference, pushing the ball back to the Seattle 24. Moseley missed a 35-yarder that would have given the Redskins a 23-10 lead.
Herein lies the protest: "We've been running this same play for seven years and the referees never called anything. Now, all of a sudden, they've reversed themselves," Gibbs said. "It's not just called against us. It happened to San Diego with (tight end Kellen) Winslow. It happened to Houston. It's something they are looking for. It's inconsistent."
The protest, Gibbs says, is two-pronged: first, that the contact came within the allowable five yards from scrimmage and, second, that Warren and running back Nick Giaquinto (who was nailed with a similar penalty against Philadelphia) were blocked by a linebacker into the path of another defender, making contact unavoidable.
"The thing is, both of the calls against me were big plays. They came inside the 20," said Warren. "I'm in the hands of the officials. The first one, against Dallas, I guess was a good call, because I raised my arms (to block) and you're not supposed to do that. But I still think the contact came within five yards from the line of scrimmage.
"The second call, against Seattle, I thought was defensive pass interference," Warren said.
Gibbs said that perhaps the call against Warren in the Dallas game and the call against Giaquinto were legitimate. "They raised their arms and they can't do that," he said.
"But we turned in the films (of the Seattle game) to the (NFL) referees and they looked at the play and said, 'You're right, pass interference shouldn't have been called (against Warren).' "
Warren is miffed. He showed a bit of overexuberance by accidentally knocking an inquiring reporter three feet away while showing exactly how he was unfairly blocked, then reacted.
"I get mad, I guess, when the guy on TV says that I've been called for (pass interference) three times. Everybody thinks the call against Nick was against me," said Warren. "Obviously, two calls against me makes me wonder what the referees are looking for. I've been in the league for five years and this has never happened before."
Meanwhile, on the other side of the locker room, Walker defined the new Fun Bunch hierarchy. "I'm the chairman of the board," he declared. "You know, I'm the guy who makes big decisions. Alvin Garrett is vice president and controller. And Charlie Brown is in charge of new moves, making sure people jump high enough. Kinda like a sergeant-at-arms."
To which Brown said, smiling, "If Alvin doesn't jump higher this year, he's gone."
His dander arisen, Garrett responded, "You're crazy. I'm the skyrocket. Anyway, I'm vice president. I'm higher than Charlie Brown. I can fire him. He can't fire me."
"We'll get this straightened out by Sunday," said Walker, calling an impromptu meeting for all Fun Bunchers.