When the most pressing issue of a late summer day at Redskin Park is a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that was called nearly nine months ago at Texas Stadium, it means only one thing.
It's Dallas Week.
Batten down the hatches, gang. It's time for "Family Feud."
(You were expecting "The Love Boat"?)
When last we left our story, Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was on his knee in Dallas Dec. 9, having downed the ball with less than 30 seconds to play in a 30-28 Washington victory.
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Ron Fellows, apparently angered when Theismann danced around to kill time the play before, ran into Theismann, giving him a parting shot in the back.
The penalty flags were barely noticeable when a fight broke out, eventually bringing almost 100 players onto the field.
The scuffle ended and the game did, too, but the words still have not, now three days before another season opens with the teams' Monday Night Football game back at Texas Stadium.
Dallas Coach Tom Landry said this week that what Theismann did on the play before Fellows' hit "is kind of rubbing it in."
Said Landry: "(Theismann) ought to be happy he won."
Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs hadn't heard Landry's comments until after a scorching practice yesterday afternoon.
He already was hot, but he got hotter.
"Joe Theismann was doing what I asked him to do -- kill some extra time on the clock," Gibbs said, coming back to speak with reporters a second time on the subject. "It wasn't rubbing it in. What we are trying to do is get the game over with and not run another play.
"I don't see a cause from their side. Hey, the quarterback was doing exactly what I told him to do. Who was wrong? The cornerback coming around and sticking our guy from behind? Or the quarterback, trying to do what I asked him to do? Is that wrong? Or their players, saying after the game that they hate some of our players and are trying to break guys' noses?
"Hey, who is wrong?"
Safety Bill Bates apparently said after the game that he wanted to break Theismann's nose. "For a guy to say he was trying to hurt another guy, I don't understand that," Gibbs said.
Defensive lineman Randy White, struggling with Redskins tackle Mark May, was overheard saying he wanted to meet May in the parking lot and later called Theismann a "hot dog."
The Cowboys also accused Theismann of saying something that wasn't nice on his way off the field, but Theismann just laughed about it yesterday.
"I never talk on the football field," he said.
Others talk off of it. White was quoted in the Dallas Times-Herald as saying, "I guess you wouldn't call (Theismann) a humble individual."
The paper also quoted defensive lineman John Dutton: "Theismann adds a lot of fuel to the fire by the way he talks. He is very unlikeable on the field and in the newspaper. He needs some humility."
Theismann on White: "There are guys in this league who maybe someday I will express an opinion about -- in a bound copy. Now is not the time to express my feelings. The less I think about the Cowboys, the better off I feel."
But, while we're asking, Theismann did have something to say about Landry's preseason prediction that the Redskins would win the NFC East and his team would finish fourth.
"Tom's a politician," Theismann said. "Tom really is probably getting ready in a couple years for retirement and running for governor of Texas, which wouldn't be a bad idea. I think he's done a heckuva job for a great organization.
"But, on the other side of the coin, he's the ultimate pessimist. Even after a Super Bowl year, he'll say maybe his team will finish fourth. I've heard the stories before.
"Tom, you can save your breath for me."
Gibbs believes the Cowboys simply are setting up his team.
"Are you kidding?" Gibbs said. "They play great in scrimmages, they play great in preseason. They pick themselves fourth and pick us first.
"I'll just say this. We're not stupid."
Gibbs said the Redskins don't believe the preseason magazines, at least the ones that rank the Cowboys as low as Landry does. "We know exactly what kind of team Dallas is," Gibbs said. "If we're not ready, we'll get our clock cleaned."
When the schedule was announced, the Redskins said they were happy to play the first Cowboys game at Dallas and return home for the second -- and perhaps more meaningful -- game in November.
Even that didn't look good yesterday.
"All we said was we wanted the roles switched (playing Dallas away, then at home)," Gibbs said. "Certainly we weren't talking of playing them first on Monday night."
Of course, there is a danger that the charges and countercharges will carry over to the game.
"That's why the referees are there," Gibbs said. "It's going to be a hard-hitting game. We know that."
Linebacker Pete Cronan said the Redskins "had actually forgotten" the incident until it was brought up. He said of the Cowboys, "Maybe they're trying to talk themselves into something. It's a great weapon if you can utilize it."
Even if they're guilty by association, the Redskins seem to want to avoid joining in on an all-out verbal war.
"If all 45 guys on each team said something insulting to one another, it still would not change the intensity of this game," Theismann said.
"You can only burn a forest so flat."