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29Sep

cowboys playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Sorry for the delay. Would have had this week’s playlist up earlier, but I was actually flying home from Dallas. Without further delay, here’s this week’s recap:

1. “The Underdog” by Spoon

Las Vegas is in the business of making money. Whenever possible they prefer to win, not lose money – especially on the National Football League. When the lines came out early last week, the Dallas Cowboys were favored over the Washington Redskins by 11.5 points, which was the largest line of the week, Vegas’ way of saying “blowout.” Much like the rest of the country, Vegas gave the Redskins virtually no chance of winning in their final regular season battle at Texas Stadium.

“You got to play the game,” said rookie safety Kareem Moore in the locker room after the ‘Skins 26-24 win. “You can’t just play the game on paper.”

Heading into the contest, Cowboy fans were quick to point out that the Redskins had only won once in their last 12 trips to Dallas. So it’s with great joy that I point out that the ‘Skins have now won five out of the last seven contests overall in what was supposedly a one-sided rivalry. Actually, looking at that streak, it might be one sided after all, just not the way the “experts” think.

2. “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley

Last time the Redskins played in this building, Jason Campbell cried. In the locker room when no one else was around, the Redskins quarterback let his emotions get the best of him after failing to rally his team from behind in a 28-23 defeat.

This year, the Redskins were victorious plain and simply because of Jason Campbell, who went 20 of 31 for 231 yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 108.4. The Cowboys defense had given up just two passes touchdowns all season long. Campbell threw two in the second quarter. Through four games he’s gone head-to-head with Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Kurt Warner and Tony Romo and each game he’s posted a higher QB rating.

For the season, Campbell has assumed a role previously played by Jaguars quarterback David Garrard. Don’t try to win the game single handedly. Just make smart decisions, take what the defense gives you and put your teammates in a position to make plays. How’s it working out for him? Through four games, Campbell’s thrown six touchdowns with no interceptions or fumbles. That, my friends, is redemption.

3. “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West

Since 1971, Cowboys fans have said that the hole in the roof of Texas Stadium was designed so that God, himself, could watch his favorite team on Sundays. Well, if that’s the case, then the big guy had to be pleased watching two of his biggest fans, receivers James Thrash and Antwaan Randle El, each catch a touchdown in the Redskins’ win.

4. “Remember The Name” by Fort Minor

If you looked up the definition of the phrase “Redskins football” in the dictionary, it would say “run and stop the run.” For as long as our nation’s capital has had a team, that’s been the gameplan. Well, this week, fans were treated to vintage Redskins football with the ‘Skins racking up 161 yards on the ground while surrendering just 44.

Let’s not forget that these Cowboys were averaging 150 yards rushing per game this season heading into this rivalry game. But on Sunday, Marion Barber rushed the ball just eight times for 26 yards, while Redskins running back Clinton Portis ran 21 times for 121 yards for the good guys. In fact, Portis was the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Cowboys in 18 games. That’s called getting it done.

5. “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter

“We had opportunities early in the game and we just couldn’t take advantage of them,” said Cowboys head coach Wade “Bum” Phillips. “I thought they outplayed us. I thought they outplayed our offense. They outplayed our defense. They outplayed our special teams and our coaches. Take your pick.”

Nuff’ said.

25Sep

One on one with Santana Moss

While wide receiver Santana Moss will never be confused for one of the biggest guys on the football field, there’s no doubting the impact he has during a game. When the Washington Redskins need a play late in the fourth quarter, history shows they get the ball into Moss’ hands. And time and time again he delivers. Like he’s famously quoted as saying, “Big time players make big time plays in big time games.”

While Moss may not be big on talking, preferring to let his game speak for him, he was kind enough to spend some time with us looking back at his record-setting college and pro career, dealing with the loss of Sean Taylor and what he looks for in a quarterback.

Where are you originally from and what was your childhood like?

I’m originally from Miami, Florida, and my childhood was great. I experienced it all – the good, the bad and some stuff you don’t want to hear about.

How early did you start playing football and when did you figure out that you were better at this game than most other kids your age?

I started playing on the street for a while, but I didn’t play organized football until I was 12. Mom wouldn’t let me do it until I got a little bit older, but I started playing way earlier than that. I was playing sandlot games with older guys from like the age of six.

Are you naturally athletic, or did you have to work harder to get to the highest level of competition? What other sports, if any, are you good at?

I think I was blessed with everything that I have, I just stayed at it. I just keep fine tuning it. Track was probably my best sport outside of football. I was pretty good at it through high school and college. I was telling the story the other day that I could have been in the Olympic trials one year doing the long jump in track, but I decided to go to football practice instead of going out there. Football was always going to be first.

Do you think if you would have stuck with it we would have seen you competing at the Olympics?

I’m not saying I know would I would have made it, but I’m pretty good at it. So if I would’ve stayed with it, you never know what I could have done.

As everyone knows, you went to the University of Miami. During your college career, you became the first player to earn Big East Offensive and Special Teams Player of the Year honors in the same season, and you set the Hurricanes’ all-time record with 2,546 receiving yards – erasing the record previously held by Michael Irvin. Why did you choose to become a Hurricane and what did you get out of your time at “The U?”

I look at it as the Hurricanes chose me, you know. I was selected to come there on a track scholarship and I feel like there was no better school I could have went to in order to be able to do both things – run track and play football. They gave me the opportunity to come in there on a track scholarship and also play football. They were the best school that gave me an offer. All the other schools were up north and I don’t think I was ready to go away from home yet.

Once I got there, it was hands down, what we went through and how I prepared myself, that’s how I was able to become one of the best receivers that’s come out of there. I just stuck to it, and I had a great class, so we all motivated each other and were able to become one of the best classes to ever come out of there.

Was it even more special being at Miami with it being your hometown team?

Oh yeah. Just not having to leave home for college and always being able to have a home-cooked meal on top of everything that Miami brought to you outside of football, it was lovely.

Who was the most-talented player on the Hurricanes during your time there?

When I was there, man, we had them all. If I were to name them all, you’d be amazed. I can’t pick just one guy out of there. If I had to look back and pick one, I think Ed Reed had the shot to be the most athletic outside of all the guys who were there. He was a safety, but he could do everything.

You were drafted by the New York Jets with the 16th overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft. Talk to me a little bit about what it felt like to hear your name called that day. What was your reaction when you found out you were heading to the Big Apple?

I was happy that I got drafted. I didn’t have no emotion on my face because I grew up not liking the Jets. I used to pick at my wife because her uncle played for the Jets, his name is Marvin Jones. We were dating at the time and I always used to tell her how sorry the Jets was back in college and in high school. Then, I was like “Man, I should have bit my tongue all these years getting on her about the Jets.” But overall, I was happy I got selected by them and was going to go there and play my hardest.

Was the middle of the first round kind of where you expected to go, and how many times have you given the Redskins front office a hard time for drafting Rod Gardner one spot earlier?

I’ve never brought it up, but I had heard from everyone when I was selected that I was going to be a Redskin. The whole week leading up, they had me circled as going to the Redskins. I think Dan Snyder wanted me to come here too, but when I got the call from the Jets and saw Rod Gardner picked before me, I wasn’t mad or anything. I think Dan Snyder was kind of mad because [Marty] Schottenheimer was the coach and he wanted a bigger receiver, so he picked Rod Gardner instead of me. It’s almost like destiny though because I’m here anyways. I think it was good for me to go away, learn and experience some of the things I experienced and when I got my chance, I’m here now.

How do you look back on your time with the New York Jets?

My memories are great. I went to the playoffs three out of the four years I was there. I broke a couple of records here and there and I was a Pro Bowl alternate twice – two years in a row – once for punt return, one as a receiver. And I was hurt one whole year, my first year, so for me to do all of that stuff in three years, I think it was time well spent. I learned a lot, I grew up a lot and I think it prepared me to be where I’m at now.

In March 2005, you were traded from the Jets to the Washington Redskins straight up for Laveranues Coles. How did the trade come about and what were your thoughts about the Redskins before you arrived in town?

It’s a long story, but I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to me, especially for my career. I don’t even look back on it, I just thank the Lord for the opportunity to come over here and never look back at it.

What were your thoughts on the Redskins before you arrived in town?

I knew they had several players over here who were considered the top at their positions. I was just happy to be over here and be a part of this.

Speaking of 2005, that was a monster year for you, starting with your week two explosion in Dallas on Monday Night Football. We know how much those two touchdowns at the end of the game meant to Redskins fans, but what do they mean to you? Do they rank as some of your favorite memories?

I think they do. When it comes to big games and big moments as far as my NFL career that ranks up there. I look back on it and I always want that kind of start. It seems like right now we’re on our way to having that kind of pace and that kind of start, so I’m hoping to build on it.

You went on to set the Redskins single season record for receiving yards with 1,483, launched your team to the playoffs and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl. How did everything come together so perfectly for you that year?

I just took what they gave me. I took the opportunities of getting the ball the way I have and it was amazing. I hadn’t been in an offense like this – I was out there, but I wasn’t really used to the best of my ability. So, being a part of that, coming here and getting the ball every other down because they knew I could do something with it, it was a blessing just to have the opportunity. One thing I do, whenever I get an opportunity, I never let it slide. I just tried to make sure I capitalized on every opportunity and we just got onto a serious pace and a serious role where we fed off of all the stuff I did and the running game and we just – me and Clinton [Portis] just took it by storm. Me, him, [Chris] Cooley and Mike Sellers – those guys, we just had that offense in our hands and we just ran with it.

Fast forward to last year, and things didn’t go nearly as smoothly for you. A series of nagging injuries slowed you down on the field and then there was the Sean Taylor tragedy off the field. How tough was 2007 for you, and how did you personally deal with losing such a close friend?

You know it’s tough. Every year don’t always add up to be the same. You go through trials and tribulations, but you got to learn how to live and live through those things. That’s what makes you better as a man. I feel like obstacles are always going to come and tragedies are always going to come, but it’s up to you to handle them. You have to know how to deal with it and put it behind you, but at the same time never forget it. That’s what I’ve done. You know how that felt going through it and you just try to build off of it because you don’t want that feeling anymore.

You told me during training camp that you did some mixed martial arts training this past offseason. First of all, do you think it helped you, and if so, could you see more NFL players trying it out? And secondly, was that the most unique type of training you’ve participated in during your professional career?

I don’t know if it’s something for everyone to do. I did it because I was so used to working out every year and I wasn’t working out at the time, so I needed something to do. I did it to benefit from workout out instead of sitting around the house like a couch potato. It helped me a lot, keeping my core strong and keeping my wind, for when I got out here and started running around and stuff. There’s guys that have probably been playing this sport longer than me that have been doing it before me, that’s one of the reasons I got the idea. I heard of guys doing different things like boxing, martial arts and swimming just to do something other than football as far as training.

Is that the most unique offseason training you’ve ever done?

Yes, by far. Usually it’s just all football, all summer. Maybe I go running or something. This was the first time I’ve done something out of this world – doing something I never grew up thinking I’d be a part of. But over the years watching people play that sport or whatever, it became interesting to me.

During your time with the Washington Redskins, you’ve caught touchdown passes from Mark Brunell, Patrick Ramsey, Todd Collins and Jason Campbell. What traits do you personally look for in a quarterback?

Just get me the ball. (Laughs)

I don’t want nothing from them more than putting it in a spot where I can do something with it. That’s all I can ask for.

How tough is it to catch a deep pass 40 or 50 yards downfield?

Honestly, it’s tough. But when you do it for so many years, do it for so long, it’s exciting – especially when you can just get it and get in the endzone. You look forward to the opportunity and just take it from there.

What’s the biggest difference between Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn?

It’s still too early to be judged. The offenses are way different, you know. We’re a pass happy and a run happy team. There’s going to be a lot of opportunities. I feel like you won’t be able to compare the differences until it’s all said and done.

How would you describe your friendship with Clinton Portis? You two seem like polar opposites, with you staying relatively quiet, while he’s never afraid to speak his mind.

Clinton’s going to be Clinton. I feel like we’ve known each other long enough, so you know what he’s going to bring to the table and what I’m going to bring to the table. However he does his, he does his and I does mine the way I does mine. We just know each other best because we’ve known each other and played together for such a long time. There’s lots of guys who can be friends, and be different. That’s one of the reasons we’re cool is because we respect each other for who we are and don’t worry about what we’re not.

What goes through your mind when you hear that your teammate Chris Cooley took a photo of a page from the playbook and accidentally posted a revealing photo of himself on his blog?

It’s something that I don’t really care too much to talk about because it wasn’t me. It’s something that don’t do nothing for me. He said it was a mistake, so it was a mistake. I think a lot of stuff gets blown out of proportion this day and age, so I just wish for the best for him and wish it don’t go no further.

Speaking of Cooley, you and several other Redskins players are involved in a fantasy football league. What do you know about fantasy football?

I don’t know much about it. I just do it and I’m learning on the go with it. I look forward to seeing the guys I picked get off.

What can fantasy football owners expect from Santana Moss this season?

I mean, I’m just going to do my thing, man. I don’t talk about it. I just let it happen.

Interviewed by Brian Murphy, September 2008.

[Editor’s note: For those new around here, we’ve also previously done one on one interviews with Marcus Washington, Clinton Portis and Fred Smoot.]

25Sep

note: more than a contender

The New York Yankees said goodbye to hallowed Yankees Stadium by missing the playoffs for the first time in what seems like decades. The Tampa Bay [Don’t Call Me Devil] Rays are in the postseason for seemingly the first time ever. I’m not even allowed to mention the Chicago Cubs because one word and they might realize they haven’t collapsed yet.

In football, the mighty, mighty New England Patriots got waxed by the Miami Dolphins, who have been the league’s doormat the last two years, thanks to a gimmick offense that thoroughly confused the Pats and their supposedly genius head coach. Powerhouses like the Indianapolis Colts, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Diego Chargers all look very flawed and beatable. Ohio and Missouri residents are on death watch after the St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals and the Cleveland Browns are a combined 0-12.

So what do I want to focus my column on this week? A reality TV show, of course.

Country Music Television, the channel that brought you My Big Redneck Wedding, strikes again, this time with a can’t miss hit called Hulk Hogan’s Celebrity Championship Wrestling set to debut Oct. 18.

The premise is fairly simple – take famous people and attempt to turn them into professional wrestlers. If Ric Flair can wrestle at the age of 917, then surely whoever Hollywood picks off the boulevard can at least fill his shoes, right? I mean, everyone knows wrestling is fake and the matches are predetermined, so why even tune in?

Here’s why – while companies like World Wrestling Entertainment do, in fact, script whether Triple H gets to keep the belt when he goes up against John Cena at Wrestlemania, they still have to get in the ring and put on a show. Wrestlers might learn how to fall in a way to absorb the impact and minimize damage, but last time I checked falling on your head still hurts. Getting powerbombed through a table still leaves a mark. And just ask me brother what it feels like to get hit upside the head with a chair. Lord knows the poor bastard should have brain damage the way I used to torture him growing up.

Click here for full article.

(courtesy photo)

Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.

24Sep

caption this IV

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time again for the game that is sweeping the nation – caption this.

Three times we’ve played the game (here, here and here), and each time we’ve had great reader-submitted captions and participation, so let’s keep up the good work. You might not win any cool prizes, but you’ll be formally recognized for being better than your peers and will get some love here on the blog.

Here’s my humble offering to get folks started:

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder pitches his idea for a “morning zoo” radio show featuring head coach Jim Zorn and offensive line coach Joe Bugel on ESPN980.

Think you can do better? Leave a comment below with your best caption.

[Editor’s note: The winner is Paige, with a caption of, “I don’t care how good he was in Mission Impossible, we’re not putting Tom Cruise in at punt returns!” Thanks to everyone who contributed.]

23Sep

a wise man once said …

(photos by Brian Murphy)

When it comes to soundbytes, Pete Kendall is no Clinton Portis.

Come to think of it, he’s no Chris Cooley and he’s not much of a Fred Smoot either. In fact, up until now, the veteran offensive lineman might not have ever been considered a go-to guy for quotes.

But everything’s changed now. For what might be the first time since he joined the Washington Redskins last August, Kendall has got something to say and the hometown fans should listen – when the defense is on the field, go nuts. Scream until your lungs collapse. Have at it. But when ‘Skins offense has the ball, please sit down and shut up.

“Well, I’m sure I speak for everybody,” said the 13-year NFL veteran. “We appreciate their support, but not at that particular moment. Really, it makes our job harder than it needs to be. If they could contain their enthusiasm until after we score, that would help us out.”

The fans aren’t completely at fault here. For as long as anyone remembers, an “offensive explosion” at FedEx Field constituted 15 points scored in the same day. With the ‘Skins racking up 53 points combined in their first two home games, fans are clearly in uncharted territory. So while they might mean well or think they’re helping out by chanting “Let’s Go Red-Skins!” or “Cool-Ley! Cool-Ley!” that’s not the case. (And don’t even get me started on the wave).

Anyone unsure whether the offense is enjoying the crowd’s chants needs only look to Kendall, who for two games has flapped his arms like a modern-day KoKo B. Ware in hopes of convincing confused fans to simmer down.

“Like I said, I think everyone appreciates the fans that we have here and the fact that we sell out the stadium with 90,000 people in it,” Kendall said. “Now if we could just get them to wait until after the play …”

Kendall didn’t finish the sentence, but we know what he was going to say.

Now if we could just get them to wait until after the play, then the Redskins could officially retire the following message:

23Sep

the predator

(photo by Brian Murphy)

My next door neighbor is the kind of kid you couldn’t pay to watch football. He’s a high school junior who would much rather play his guitar in his basement than tune in to see who the Redskins are playing, which makes this next statement that much more improbable – this past week he came up to me to inform me that rookie safety Chris Horton is his favorite Redskin.

After getting yelled at by his parents, the kid was seeking refuge at my house, only to discover I was actually at FedEx Field covering the ‘Skins-Saints game. So he sat with my wife and watched the maroon and black defeat New Orleans, thanks in large part to Horton’s two interception, one fumble recovery effort.

“He looks like the Predator,” said neighbor kid. “That hair makes him look like a complete badass.”

And just like that, he actually cares about the Redskins.

For those who may not be familiar with Horton’s background, he’s a 6’1”, 216 lb. safety out of UCLA. The Redskins drafted him in the seventh round (249th pick overall) of the 2008 NFL Draft, meaning he was the tenth and final player Vinny Cerrato selected. You probably had stopped watching the draft long before he was chosen, but don’t feel bad – only three other players heard their names called after Horton was drafted.

So if Horton was able to go from the seventh round to NFC defensive player of the week honors while simultaneously converting new fans after just one start, he’s definitely a player everyone needs to get to know. Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Congratulations on being named the NFC defensive player of the week. Aside from the joke Randy Thomas played on you about the $100,000, how good did it feel to earn the honors after your first career start?

“It felt great,” Horton said. “Just sitting there when I was by myself thinking about it, you know, there’s guys that have been in this league a long time that have never been the NFC defensive player of the week. I feel like it’s a great accomplishment.”

Okay, let’s get it out of the way. Go ahead and give me the party line and downplay your accomplishments last week and say, “My teammates made the plays and I was just in the right place at the right time.”

“Oh, that’s what happened,” Horton said with a laugh. “Obviously if those guys wouldn’t have made those plays and gotten their hands on the balls, then I never would have gotten those picks. I just feel like it was me running to the ball and being in the right spot at the right time with those guys making plays. That’s how I was able to get those picks.”

This is the part where I remind you that this defense set a modern-era record for fewest turnovers in a season. They would get their hands on the ball, and for whatever reason they wouldn’t come away with the turnover. Whether you want to downplay it or not, the fact that you’re converting those turnovers is a big deal.

“Any time you can get turnovers it’s a big deal because you get the ball back to your offense and you get more opportunities for them to score,” said Horton, who only had four interceptions during his collegiate career. “Or, as a defender, if you get your hands on the ball like ‘Los [Carlos Rogers] did today, he almost scored.”

So clearly after such a great debut you should have been the starter this week against Arizona, right?

“No, not at all,” Horton said. “Not at all. I know my role on this team. My role is, if anything happens or when we go into extra packages, then I’m in the game. That’s my role. I’m not really concerned with who starts and stuff like that. I’m just going to keep playing and get better every week. Reed [Doughty] does a great job when he’s out there. To me, he’s the starter.”

Redskins fans are just getting to know you. Can you tell them what kind of player you are and what skills you bring to the table?

“You know, I’m going to hit you,” Horton said. “I’m going to get out there and I’m going to cover tight ends, and I’m not going to allow tight ends to catch the ball in the open field. I’m just a physical football player. I put in a lot of time studying the game of football and try to have the least amount of mental mistakes as possible.”

How the heck did you fall to the seventh round of the NFL Draft?

“Hmmm … ask those guys who said I wasn’t good enough to play,” he said. “I don’t really know. I don’t really worry about it now. Those other teams – they’ve got to be concerned when they see number 48 on film because when I show up, I’m gonna make some plays.”

Other teams beware: the Predator is coming to a city near you. All this film is missing is Jesse Ventura saying, “I ain’t got time to bleed” or maybe we’ll settle for Horton picking off Tony Romo this weekend in Dallas. Either way, this has the makings of a classic.

22Sep

high stepping for nothing

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Call it the best play of Devin Thomas’ career that never happened.

With just under nine minutes remaining and the Washington Redskins clinging to a 24-17 lead over the Arizona Cardinals, quarterback Jason Campbell rolled out to his right to avoid pressure and connected on a 68-yard touchdown dagger to Thomas, sending the sellout FedEx Field fans into a frenzy.

“We snapped it real fast and I think we caught the defense off guard,” said Thomas, the rookie wide receiver from Michigan State. “I don’t think they were in their set – whatever they was going to be in. The corner, he was kind of stuck, I went around him and I just ran up the sideline.”

What happened next was a scene much more common in high school football than the pros – Thomas was so wide open that the nearest defender was more than 10 yards away. If his quarterback saw him and got him the ball, there was little doubt what would happen next.

“With Jason [Campbell] rolling out everybody sucked up, so I was just waving my hands and hoping Jason could see me,” Thomas said. “He saw me, and I was just hoping I could catch the ball. All I cared about was catching the ball and then I just knew it was over. I looked up at the big screen and didn’t see anybody around me, so I just did what I did, like when I watched the guys back in the day. I started dancing and stuff … until I realized it had been called back.”

The play was called back after offensive lineman Stephon Heyer was flagged for unnecessary roughness because of a blindside hit on defensive tackle Darnell Dockett half a football field away.

“It’s alright, I was just happy we won the game,” Thomas said. “I was hoping that play could have helped us, but thankfully we was able to grind it out and get the ‘W.’”

With the game-clinching scored wiped away, the Redskins were forced to sweat it out a little longer, but still managed to secure their second-straight home victory. Thomas finished the day with one catch for seven yards, one rush for 16 yards and one apology from Heyer.

“I told Devin I was sorry,” Heyer said after the game. “I told him he’s got a lot of NFL left, he’ll make another touchdown.”

In the locker room after the game, I had one final word of advice for Thomas for when he does finally register his first NFL touchdown – get in the endzone first, then have fun. Don’t pull a DeSean Jackson and leave the ball at the one yard line.

“Nah, I’m not gonna do that at all,” Thomas said with a laugh. “I’m gonna make sure I’m in there.”

Here’s hoping Thomas gets to unveil his first touchdown celebration next week in Texas Stadium.

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