After the Redskins lackluster performances against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys the last two weeks, it’s easy to see why the talk surrounding the team is mostly about changes that may come as soon as early next week and not about the product that has been put out on the field.
Following their second embarrassing loss in as many weeks in a divisional matchup on primetime television, this time a 17-0 defeat at the hands of the hated Cowboys, fans simply want the final game of the season against San Diego to be over with so they will finally know what changes to expect for the team in preparation for the 2010 season instead of just speculating about them.
With so much discussion surrounding Mike Shanahan’s inevitable arrival, secondary coach Jerry Gray’s decision to interview for Head Coach Jim Zorn’s job when there isn’t a vacancy at this time and Albert Haynesworth’s defiance of leadership on multiple occasions last week, it’s easy to see why the quality of play on the field has dropped drastically compared to the previous four weeks.
Defensive end Andre Carter says he and his teammates have heard the talk engulfing Redskins Park but, because of the solidarity amongst the players, they try to put it out of their minds when it comes to game time.
“Rumors and talks float around, just like in life, but those are distractions. We avoid those distractions with the leadership and camaraderie we have on and off the field.”
The camaraderie between Haynesworth and his teammates may have been shaken up following his tardiness on Christmas Day and when he openly criticized the leadership on the team along with Coach Greg Blache’s defense. He was also involved in an argument with Coach Zorn in front of the team prior to practice last week and was dismissed that day.
Did his actions last week set a bad precedent amongst the younger players on the team, especially on the defensive side of the ball?
“We all need to lead by example, especially as vets. I don't know why Albert was late. That was between him and Coach Zorn. When Albert was dismissed, the next player up was Anthony Montgomery. As a team and as a defense we weren't disturbed by the mishap Christmas day,” Carter said.
Carter said Haynesworth’s comments about the staff and his actions from last week did not distract the team heading into the Cowboys game on Sunday night.
“I feel that Albert was upset of how the season was going. No one likes to lose. Perhaps he had high expectations and our scheme didn't match what he was accustomed to in Tennessee. I can't really speak for him. I'm just assuming. It didn't affect us when preparing for Dallas.”
It’s hard to agree, based on the level of talent on the team and how the team has played lately, that outside forces haven’t affected them at all but for Carter, he has had issues of his own to deal with lately, having played with a torn right biceps in the last two losses.
How is the injury coming along?
“It's completely ripped. I am making it. I have one more game to play with it then I will have [it] reattached.”
Having such a gruesome injury would force many to pack it in during a season that has been long gone for months but Carter has plenty of motivation. One of his closest friends on the team, Phillip Daniels, has been playing with the same injury for almost the whole season so it’s easy to see why he’s fighting through it and wanted to play in Weeks 16 and 17.
“I wanted to finish the season strong. Hurt or not hurt, it was the Cowboys and I couldn’t allow the opportunity to slip by. Besides, I couldn't allow Phillip to think I was a punk.”
The final chance for Carter to prove to Daniels that he is not a punk will come this Sunday afternoon against the San Diego Chargers, who are currently the hottest team in the NFL with 10 straight wins.
Carter says the key to overcoming a high-powered San Diego offense, led by dark horse MVP candidate quarterback Phillip Rivers, running back Ladanian Tomlinson, tight end Antonio Gates and breakout wide receiver Vincent Jackson, is to think about the impression they will leave throughout the league with a solid performance.
“This is the last [of] four quarters [in] the 2009 season. We have to ask ourselves, ‘How do you want to be remembered?’”
Under the Helmet:
THN: Did you do anything special for Christmas with your family?
AC: Just stayed home with my wife and kids and enjoyed watching “The Christmas Story” four times.
THN: Do you have a special New Years resolution for 2010?
AC: I need to read more books. I slacked off this year so I need to stay on top of that.