ST. PAUL, MINN. — ST. PAUL, Minn. -- That exhibition game in late August was just a trial run, the opening act for the main event.
There's nothing preliminary this week about Jack Burns' preparation for the Washington Redskins defense. The Vikings' offensive coordinator knows his game plan will have far more significance than it did on the night of Aug. 29 at RFK Stadium.
Then the Vikings (5-1) capped a 4-0 exhibition season with a 30-0 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions. A similar result Sunday at the Metrodome would be surprising, but the matchup already has generated sentimental feelings for Burns. Or has it?
"I know exactly what they're going to do," Burns said. "They're going to come in here and try to knock us backward. The challenge for us is to stick our jaw in there and not let them do it."
That is the Redskins' way, a trait with which Burns is intimately familiar. Before joining the Vikings this season, he had served under Redskins coach Joe Gibbs the past three years.
Burns remembers those coaching staff sessions with Gibbs when it was time to set strategy for the next opponent. It was like a war room: Don't assess the damage until the final second explodes, er, ticks off the clock.
Sunday's game gives Burns a more real opportunity to match wits with his former coaching mates. The regular-season clash is crucial for both teams.
After impressive victories over Denver and Philadelphia, the Redskins (4-2) are anxious to prove they can still play like Super Bowl champions. The Vikings hope to show they are a legitimate playoff contender.
Caught up in the middle of this scenario are the mirror-like images of the team's offenses. Burns and Vikings coach Dennis Green have not tried to hide the fact that the Vikings' offense is largely based on the Redskins' philosophy: two-tight end alignments, one-back formations, three wide receivers involved in consistent motion.
Gibbs has used the concept to win three Super Bowls. He has seen many NFL teams try the same system with varied success.
"I imagine he'll laugh a little when he sees on film some of the things we're doing," Burns said. "We do a lot of things they do, but we have some distinct differences.
"It'll be special on Sunday, but there's no axe to grind. I've got friends over there on that staff, but I still have my competitive juices. I want to win as bad as they do."
Green made sure that any verbal sparring would not come from his side. He avoided expected references as to how Sunday's game "could make our season" or this game "would give us the respect we've been looking for."
The Redskins' secondary relies mainly on man-to-man coverage, something the Vikings' receivers said they cherish. When asked if he thought that would give his receivers an advantage, Green moved quickly to defuse the hype.
"Don't get me into that one," Green said smiling.
* Wide receiver Hassan Jones did not practice yesterday and probably won't play Sunday. Jones suffered two broken bones in his lower back in Thursday's game against Detroit.
However, Green said it is unlikely Jones will be placed on injured reserve.
"There's nothing you can do for it but rest," Green said.
* Tight end Mike Tice will be activated off injured reserve. Tice has been out with a fractured bone in his lower back.
* The news is not as promising for tight end Steve Jordan, who operates as the H-back. Green said Jordan is still recuperating from his injury and was unable to practice. Green listed Jordan as questionable for Sunday.
* Quarterback Rich Gannon practiced yesterday and did extra throwing in the morning. Green said Gannon's hand remained a "little sore," but he is expected to start Sunday.
Gannon suffered a hyperextended knee in the Detroit game and aggravated his throwing hand, which is still healing from a hairline fracture above the wrist. Gannon hurt the hand in the Sept. 20 game against Tampa Bay but has not missed a start.