There may be a lot of strange emotions at RFK Stadium on Sunday, but none stranger than those of Washington Redskins quarterback Jeff Rutledge, who counts both coaches as friends, has seen the rivalry from both sides and can thank both organizations for keeping his NFL career alive.

Before he signed with the Redskins last spring, Rutledge spent eight seasons with the New York Giants, who happen to be the fiercest and most respected rivals of his new employer.

He remembers that when he told Giants Coach Bill Parcells he was signing with the Redskins, Parcells responded, "You don't want to go down there with those people."

In fact, he did. The Giants left him an unprotected Plan B free agent and made it clear they wanted someone younger to back up Phil Simms. The Redskins, looking for a veteran backup and No. 3 quarterback, were the only team to phone.

Coach Joe Gibbs had three veteran quarterbacks in for tryouts and decided on Rutledge because he "was impressed with him. I didn't think he'd throw the ball very well, but he surprised us. I knew a lot of other things about him. I scouted Alabama when he was there. I knew he was smart, a super producer and that good things seemed to happen when he was in there. Every time he has had a chance he has produced. You can almost count on it: When he has a chance to play, he plays well. How many guys have won a national championship in high school {Banks High in Birmingham}, college {Alabama} and the NFL {the '86 Giants}? Has anyone else done that?"

Rutledge jumped at the offer. As it turned out, the Giants never did find their kid quarterback. They used a fifth-round draft choice on Craig Kupp of Pacific Lutheran, and when he had a bad training camp, Parcells cut him and signed veteran Matt Cavanaugh.

Had Rutledge known then what he knows now, he might have stayed. The Giants had become a sort of surrogate family and his children had become accustomed to their schools and life there.

"But it never came up," Rutledge said. "I owed Bill the courtesy of telling him what I'd decided to do, and he understood I had to do what was best for my family. It was to the point in New York where I'd kind of played the string out. They wanted to get a young quarterback ready, and I went to camp every year fighting for my life. After I went on injured reserve two years ago, Bill told me if I got a good offer I ought to take it. Then when they left me unprotected, nothing much was said. The handwriting was more than on the wall."

Because he has spent time in both camps, he offers a unique perspective on the Redskins-Giants rivalry. Parcells often spent mornings between meetings plopped on a bench next to Rutledge, talking about whatever was on his mind.

He said Parcells asked about his family, his interests and his future. He remembers that Parcells was a man of many interests. None of his loves was as strong as his love of football, but he was a history buff, a fan of the Boston Red Sox and a coach who took his superstitions seriously.

"He bought doughnuts at the same coffee shop every morning," Rutledge said. "It was important because I guess the Giants had won a big game after he did that. So he never stopped doing it."

Rutledge joined the Giants in 1982 and watched the Redskins win the first five Redskins-Giants games. But beginning with the second meeting of 1984, Parcells's second season -- a 37-13 Giants' victory -- the Giants have dominated, winning eight of the 10 nonstrike games and seven of the last eight.

"The Giants felt they had the Redskins' number," he said. "They had a lot of confidence they could make the plays they had to make. I think they thought there was some doubt in the Redskins' minds about being able to beat the Giants. They felt good about playing the Redskins. You beat them seven times out of eight, there's no doubt the pressure is on the team that hasn't been winning. The Giants felt that if the game was close in the fourth quarter, the Redskins would have some doubts about their ability to beat the Giants."

But: "It was a good, clean hard-fought rivalry. I think each team respects the other. Each team knows that the division is going to be decided among the Redskins, Eagles and Giants. The Giants knew they weren't going to win the division without beating the Redskins and Eagles. The Redskins feel the same way about the Giants and Eagles."

Ironically, Rutledge is making his Redskins debut against the Giants. He was placed on injured reserve at the end of training camp to allow the Redskins to keep another player.

The month out of action gave his sore right shoulder needed rest. He bruised it in a scrimmage with the Buffalo Bills "and it never had a chance to heal."

Rutledge has been asked a dozen or so times this week if he has given the Redskins any inside secrets about the Giants.

"No," he said. "I've offered a word here and there, but there wasn't much to say. I was surprised how much the Redskins know the Giants. You can tell they've gone over a few films. There really wasn't much for me to add. The two teams are very similar in their preparation and the two coaches are similar."

Rutledge arrived in New York after Simms had finished three seasons that saw him develop from the rawest of rookies into a guy that's possibly second to only Joe Montana among NFL quarterbacks.

Simms had a baptism by fire in New York, where the Giants were trying to develop an offensive line to protect him while convincing fans and the press that he eventually would be terrific.

"People on that team respect him a lot," Rutledge said. "He'll play with pain and do whatever it takes to get his team down the field. He's like Montana in that he sees the entire field and gets everyone involved."

Will Rutledge have torn emotions? "No way," he said. "I had some great years in New York and made a lot of great friends. It'll be strange being on the other sideline. But I know who's paying me. I'm a Redskin now."