Ready Or Not

record should not matter.

"Because if that's the case, then you cheated me somewhere else along the line."

In other words, what Kitna is saying, preparing your best and playing your best should not solely be dependent on the stakes at hand. Poor guy, he should know. In the 12 seasons he played before coming to the Cowboys in 2009 - with Seattle, Cincinnati and Detroit - his teams only twice finished above .500 and did go through that NFL-record setting 0-16 season with the Lions.

OK, I'll concede this. He might realize all this and Austin might, too. But what about the new generation of guys on this team, those not so far removed from college? Well, Kitna is quick to point out "the worst thing in the world you can do is put out bad tape," meaning dogging it in a game or just playing poorly when you know that some pro personnel guy might be watching your game tape at some point later in your career.

The key to longevity in the league, Kitna says: "Don't put out bad tape." And in case someone might think that's but boring veteran talk, that was the first thing Cowboys owner Jerry Jones pointed out late this week while taping his TV show, Special Edition, that they tape everything you do in the NFL, from minicamps to training camps to regular-season practices to games, and it will follow you around like some bad police record every step of the way.

And as my high school coach repeatedly said when someone would argue about a performance or a play, "The pictures don't lie."

So I noticed at the end of the team stretch on Wednesday, right there at the beginning of team practice, Garrett wasn't taking any of this for granted, not for a second fooling himself into thinking his guys were above this human nature of suffering a natural emotional letdown for this game - even if you guys have reminded me this week that, darn it, it's the Redskins.

So Garrett began barking as the players were moving into place, "Nobody's walking ... nobody's walking ... nobody's walking," wanting to make sure the pace of the day was even quickened, that nobody might be suffering any sort of malaise.

That he constantly preaches stacking one good practice on top of another during the week, then playing on Sunday and starting the process all over the next week is not mere rhetoric for media sake. He preaches that to his players and assistant coaches, believes in that and figures that is the surest way of making sure what I'm suggesting would seem natural does not happen.

"He stays consistent," DeMarcus Ware says, "and moves forward. Even when we win. Stays the same.

"And Paul ..."

He need not say anymore. He meant defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who Ware does a great impersonation of when trying to convey the veteran coach's intensity during practice or a meeting - no matter what the stakes are.

"And it doesn't matter if we're 4-8," Ware said, "or whatever we are."

Uh, that would be 4-9, assured of a losing season and with no chance at the playoffs but still needing to get their motors started to play at noon in what has been reduced to but a Game 14. Really the only thing at stake the rest of the season is where the Cowboys finish in the NFC East, and that will be in third or fourth place, the latter, by the way, dead last. And if they don't win Sunday, that finish in the East definitely will be last, and would be their first cellar-dwelling existence since 2002.

How quickly - and far - the predicted mighty would have fallen. To my point, is that enough incentive battle for whatever consolation prize might still exist?

Ah, but yes, it is the Redskins after all, noon Sunday at Cowboys Stadium, and those longtime meanies already won 13-7 the first time around, further meaning a Cowboys loss on Sunday to them would lead to Washington's first series sweep since 2005.

Hey, who knows, maybe these guys know what they're talking about. Maybe that it's still a game, the crowd, the TV coverage, the fear of tape and that, after all, these are the blasted Redskins, will give some intangible meaning to this first meaningless game from a tangible standpoint since, well, 2004.

And this from a team so much was expected from but produced so

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