What a rare Redskins-Cowboys Week this has become down in Dallas.

The pressing issue there is not so much Sunday's 4 p.m. game at RFK Stadium, but defensive tackle Randy White's ability to be a team leader, a missed tackle in Monday night's loss to St. Louis, and six gangster hats.

Among other things.

As Dallas cornerback Everson Walls said this week, "There is no fight in this team. We are too busy fighting each other."

For a change, the Cowboys (6-3) are not insulting the Redskins (5-4) -- or vice versa.

The Cowboys are insulting only the Cowboys, and the Redskins, in the rare role of outsiders, find it very interesting.

"You know, that's frustration, that's all," Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley said yesterday. "That is nothing but motivation for each other. That's a set-up."

It began Monday afternoon when several of the team's defensive backs stopped in a St. Louis hat shop and found something they all liked.

The defensive backs have been local heroes since Sept. 9, the day they intercepted six Washington passes in a 44-14 victory. Quarterback Danny White even gave them a nickname: "Thurman's Thieves," in honor of reserve cornerback Dennis Thurman.

So, 90 minutes before the game in St. Louis, six of the eight Thieves (minus Walls and Bill Bates) appeared in uniform -- and gangster hats -- on a television interview.

Viewers might have loved it, but certain Cowboys didn't.

Randy White said it "rubbed him the wrong way," the Dallas Morning News reported.

Linebacker Jeff Rohrer told the Dallas Times-Herald there is "a time and a place for everything. But there is also a time when the commitment to the team should be made . . . "

Others made comments but didn't attach their names to them. You can imagine their tone.

The missed tackle in question came on a third-quarter touchdown run by St. Louis' Earl Ferrell that gave the Cardinals the lead for good. Rohrer apparently missed the tackle and immediately incurred the wrath of defensive end Jim Jeffcoat.

Their argument on the sideline was broken up by Thurman, but then Randy White came along and began yelling at Thurman, apparently because of the TV interview.

When the whole episode started to leak into the news, Dallas Coach Tom Landry called a meeting of team captains Thursday, including both Whites.

He set guidelines for TV interviews, and asked Randy White to apologize to Thurman, which he did.

Landry later made a speech to the team.

"Coach Landry said we had to get the feeling back we had three weeks ago," said free safety Michael Downs, another team captain. "Everybody has to start thinking how their actions affect the team."

When they heard yesterday that the Cowboys were feuding, some Redskins had trouble suppressing smiles.

"No comment on that," running back George Rogers said, grinning. (Then again, he always grins.)

Others figured it figured.

"In the last couple of years, Dallas has had some dissension, including the quarterback controversy," said strong safety Tony Peters.

"They've realized a lot of success early, but if you don't mind your p's and q's, there are a lot of good teams out here, and you have to be mindful how you got there. We've given each team due respect. Dallas doesn't do that all the time."

Peters' brother in Dallas called to tell him about the interview with the defensive backs. To Peters, it sounded like a Hog-style promotion. "That's good. That's identity. That's closeness," he said.

When he heard it didn't go over real big on the sidelines, Peters said, "It sounds to me like a lot of them are jealous."

Center Rick Donnalley was surprised. "They're in first place in the division," he said. "I don't see why they need to do any panicking." But he found something with which the Redskins could identify.

"We certainly know that type of atmosphere," he said. "When we were 1-3, we had everyone looking for excuses. It's the same type of situation."

Rookie defensive tackle Dean Hamel doesn't agree.

"Yeah, we had that, but we weren't blaming guys."

Middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz blamed it all on the agony of defeat.

"When you lose a couple games, people get mad. Good teams get mad and that's not surprising," he said.

Coach Joe Gibbs was suspicious of the whole thing.

"Every time anything like that ever has happened to me as a coach, the team comes in and plays great," Gibbs said.

"They are a great team. They played better than us in the first half of the season. They're in the lead (tied with the Giants). If this will do anything, it's my experience it will elevate a team."

When asked about the specifics, Gibbs would say nothing.

This week, that's unusual.

Barring an injury in today's light workout, linebacker Monte Coleman will be activated after six weeks on injured reserve with a strained right hamstring.

To make room for him, the Redskins most likely will waive linebacker Chris Keating or place linebacker Stuart Anderson (sore right knee) on injured reserve.

Keating backs up long snapper Jeff Bostic. That seemed to be an advantage for him until yesterday, when Donnalley worked on long snapping after practice.

Guard R.C. Thielemann (torn ligament, his right knee) returned to practice. "That's a good sign," Gibbs said.