IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders wasn't about to pull any punches yesterday.
Hearing that the Washington Redskins' Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell didn't think he could cover them, Sanders stood next to Washington's Irving Fryar during warm-ups and talked about the Redskins' receivers. Asked about the conversation, Sanders said: "I asked the Rev. Fryar to please excuse me for what I was about to do."
On the second play of the game, Sanders revealed what he meant. Being blocked by Connell, Sanders introduced himself by lifting Connell's face mask and apparently delivering an elbow to the chin. Connell then went after Sanders before Westbrook intervened to break up any fight. No penalty was called.
At the end of the game, Sanders gave Connell a hug.
Said Sanders: "I told him he played a good game, but I also let him know that if he is going to hunt rabbits, sometimes it ain't no fun if the rabbit has a gun, too."
Connell had a different version of their talk.
"He came up to me and said: Keep up the good work and that he loves me," Connell said. "But there ain't no love here."
Westbrook said he took some pleasure in that Sanders was hit headfirst by Dan Turk on a punt return later that quarter. Sanders left with a mild concussion before returning in the third quarter.
"I didn't know where I was, and then I went into the locker room and wanted to come out and play again," Sanders said. "I did just run on because I knew the doctors wouldn't clear me."
Since Nov. 29 of last season, the Redskins are 0-3 against Dallas and 8-0 vs. the rest of the league.
The Redskins have lost five straight in the rivalry and haven't won at Texas Stadium since 1995. It's their first five-game skid in the series since 1979 to 1981.
"They always seem to play their best against us," said Norv Turner, who was the offensive coordinator in Dallas from 1991 to 1993. "They certainly are more wide open on offense when they play us."
Passing on optimism
Redskins quarterback Brad Johnson refused to concede any edge in the NFC East race to Dallas, which shares the lead in the division with the Redskins but has the edge in the tiebreaker with a sweep of Washington.
"I don't think they are in the driver's seat," he said. "Right now, we're 4-2 and they're 4-2. It's wide open, and we still have 10 games to go."
The Redskins most likely will remain the NFL's worst-ranked defense. They allowed 352 yards to Dallas yesterday and have given up at least 36 points in three of their six games this season.
The Cowboys converted nine of their first 13 third-down conversions (69 percent) and punted just twice in their opening eight series. And that's an offense that had star receiver Michael Irvin inactive with a neck injury and played the entire fourth quarter without their other starting wide-out, Raghib Ismail, who had a contusion.
The Redskins had a 30-minute, closed-door meeting with Turner and owner Daniel Snyder after the game. . . . The 17-0 deficit was the second-worst start for the Redskins this season. They trailed Carolina, 21-0, on Oct. 3 and came back to win 38-36. . . . Outside linebacker Greg Jones suffered a hernia, and left guard Keith Sims fractured his right thumb. Both injuries are not believed to require surgery, but will be re-evaluated today. . . . Brian Hansen, a 14-year veteran punter signed Friday, had only a net average of 24.7, and one kick was returned 70 yards for a touchdown by Sanders.