Brian Orakpo's deep laugh and big smile belied the Grinch in his soul.
He wants to ruin the New York Giants' Christmas.
Beating the 7-6 Giants on Monday night at FedExField would make their path to the playoffs nearly impossible and if Orakpo can stick a lump of coal in their stocking, he'd happily do so.
Orakpo's Christmas present came early Wednesday when the NFL announced he had been named Defensive Player of the Week for his four-sack effort in the victory over the Oakland Raiders. The Redskins' No. 1 draft pick has 11 sacks, a club rookie record, and he has a shot at the NFL rookie record of 14 ½ set by Jevon Kearse in 1999 with the Tennessee Titans.
Orakpo's Grinchiness wasn't really echoed in the locker room, and, to be truthful, he was responding to questions playing off the "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" angle. This wasn't his idea and the Redskins need not explore the Method school of acting to find their motivation.
No, the Redskins (4-9) can list plenty of reasons to beat the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers that have nothing to do with the opponents.
"This is about us, not about spoiling their season," running back Quinton Ganther said.
Spoilers. Eew. Teams cast in the spoiler role know what that means. They theoretically have nothing left to play for except the ruination of another team's dreams. They're out of it but in it as the contender's bump in the road, the minor obstacle to overcome, the victim.
The holiday punch bowl ought not be filled with such thin gruel.
"That's not our mindset," quarterback Jason Campbell said. "Let's do it for us. Even though we're not going to the playoffs."
There's enough out there for the Redskins to gain without them simply seeking to salve the wounds of a season gone awry by creating misfortune for others. Though that is a fun by-product.
"We need to win an NFC East game," linebacker London Fletcher pointed out. "As far as us being the knockout for the Giants, that's not our motivation."
The Redskins are 0-4 in divisional play. They have not gone winless in division games since 1994. There is a little bit of pride at stake here. They started the season by losing to the Giants, they were nipped by Dallas and swept by the Philadelphia Eagles. That could scare Santa back up the chimney.
They've also not won consecutive games this season. The last time they put up back-to-back victories was late October of 2008, when they beat the Cleveland Browns 14-11 and then topped the Detroit Lions 25-17.
"It would be exciting just to get another win, do something to get on a winning streak," Campbell said. "We've been playing with a winning attitude."
The improvement began in the second half of the Atlanta game on Nov. 8, though the Redskins lost to the Falcons. They beat the Denver Broncos but then lost three close games in a row in which they saw late leads fade away into bitter defeats. They lost by one to Dallas, by three to the Eagles, by three to the New Orleans Saints.
While there is no shame in falling to playoff-caliber clubs, there's no reason to go caroling about it either.
"We want to continue to put wins together," head coach Jim Zorn said, casting aside the many playoff formulas and "ramifications" for others. "We got one in this fourth quarter (of the season) and we want number two. Those are the things that I am going to stress the most."
He wants to win. If the Giants have to lose for that to open, so be it.
"I don't want to look at it as a spoiler role for our team," he said. "What I want to do is just win because we earned it. If we can earn this win, I want it to be for us than winning it for somebody else."
Here in the time of giving, the Redskins are in a mood to take.
Oddly enough, that's exactly the spirit.
-- INJURY UPDATES
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (ankle) was limited in the afternoon practice, while cornerback DeAngelo Hall (knee) did some drill work on the side as did fullback Mike Sellers (thigh).
Coach Jim Zorn said the playing status of three starters for the New York Giants game was "still up in the air."
Meantime, safety Kareem Moore (ankle) was also limited.
With an extra day of work because of the Monday night game, the Redskins will use a short Saturday practice "to work on situations," Zorn said.
-- THOMAS ON PUNT RETURNS
Wide receiver Devin Thomas fielded a number of punts during the special teams portion of practice and seems certain to add at least a piece of that job to his resume, along with returning kicks.
Coach Zorn still expects to use a combination of returners on punts, where the Redskins average a meager 3.6 yards per return this season.
The incumbent, Antwaan Randle El, muffed a punt and failed to field another that bounced 18 more yards in the win against the Oakland Raiders.