When Darrell "Superman" Green sobbed on the sideline during a 41-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings six weeks ago, the Redskins organization and everybody close to the team probably wanted to cry with him.
Green's tears were symbolic of how far once-proud Washington had fallen this season. Superman Green's spirit and strength had been broken by another humiliating setback, which dropped Washington to an 0-7 record.
But there were nine more games to play, and the All-Pro cornerback had to somehow regain his status of caped crusader and fly again for the good of the franchise.
Slowly but surely over the last five weeks, he has re-discovered his magic. Green has seldom been better than he was last week against the Oakland Raiders, when he returned an interception 36 yards, made four tackles and showed he still might be the NFL's "Fastest Man."
Raiders running back Napoleon Kaufman, 25, found out his youth and speed were no match for the 38-year-old Green in the first quarter of last Sunday's game.
Kaufman got caught from behind by Green, who shoved him out of bounds at the Washington 21-yard line after a 55-yard gain.
Kaufman is considered one of the most explosive runners in the NFL. He was a California state high school 100- and 200-meter champion before running track at the University of Washington.
When Kaufman blew past Washington linebacker Derek Smith and free safety Stanley Richard, aiming for the end zone with only cornerback Cris Dishman anywhere in sight, it appeared that only a miracle would prevent a 76-yard touchdown run.
Teammates talked about that Green miracle as the Redskins (3-9) prepared to face the San Diego Chargers (5-7) today at 1 p.m. at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.
Brian Mitchell said, "I was looking at Cris Dishman, and all of a sudden you see a blur just fly by. I don't care what people say, he's the fastest man in the league. Napoleon Kaufman is a guy that can run and he was embarrassed today."
Earlier in his career, Green competed six times in a race to determine the NFL's Fastest Man -- and won four times.
Leslie Shepherd said, "If you're on the sideline or in the stands, and someone breaks free for a long run, you always expect a Darrell Green to suddenly come out of nowhere and run him down. I bet Kaufman had 20 yards on Darrell." "Guys like him [Green] don't come along very often," coach Norv Turner said. "You should appreciate him while he's here."
Maybe Green does have some superhuman qualities.
"The problem with everybody is we're all prisoners of the human experience," said Green at Redskin Park this week. "Meaning nobody ever experienced this before, and they just know that when you get to be this age you should not be able to run or whatever, and I'm not limited to that or tied to that.
"When a guy breaks, I'm not wondering if I can catch him," said Green. "I'm just going. I'm not really looking around the corner. Maybe, one day about 30 years from now, I won't catch the guy."
SAN DIEGO (5-7) AT WASHINGTON (3-9)
Time: 1: 01 p.m., Ch. 9.
Line: Redskins by 3.
Vs. spread: Chargers 4-5; Redskins 4-8.
Outlook: Redskins RB Terry Allen should return from a sprained ankle that has sidelined him for four weeks. Unfortunately, it's not in time to help coach Norv Turner. In San Diego, coach June Jones is trying to get the word interim removed from his title. But the Chargers have to win impressively in their last few games for PTC that to happen. QB Craig Whelihan can still help Jones, but he has got to do better than the five interceptions he threw last week against Denver. The Chargers have scored 20 points just once and the Redskins are 5-0 against San Diego all-time. But the Chargers should buck those trends today.
Notable: Redskins CB Darrell Green has never had an interception against the Chargers.
CHARGERS: Out: TE John Burke (shoulder); LB Lew Bush (knee); RB Natrone Means (foot); T Vaughn Parker (leg). Questionable: CB Terrance Shaw (knee); RB Tremayne Stephens (thigh). Probable: LB Kurt Gouveia (shoulder); WR Ryan Thelwell (ankle).
REDSKINS: Out: LB Ken Harvey (knee-IR); DT Dana Stubblefield (knee). Doubtful: WR Albert Connell (knee). Probable: RB Terry Allen (ankle); S Leomont Evans (knee); T Shar Pourdanesh (groin).
Pub Date: 12/06/98