On the Redskins' flight to the New York area for their Week 2 game against the Giants at the Meadowlands, players and coaches alike had the opportunity to watch an in-flight animated adaptation of the literary classic "The Old Man and the Sea."
Readers of that work by American author Ernest Hemingway remember that it centers on the persistent struggles of a veteran fisherman to gain control of a stubborn quarry.
In a way, something of the sort would transpire the next day at Giants Stadium.
Nineteen-year NFL veteran Ray Brown stepped in at right tackle for the Redskins and for most of the afternoon kept Giants Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan in check. Strahan, the 6-5, 275-pound 12th-year pro out of Texas Southern, set an NFL record with 22.5 sacks in 2001 and began the 2004 season with 114 career sacks, 12th on the NFL's all-time list.
In his face-off with Brown, a massive 6-5, 318-pounder, Strahan was held without a sack. He did manage five tackles and fumble recovery in the Giants' 20-14 win. Still, Brown made sure that Strahan did not have the type of dominating game that he's capable of producing.
The Redskins were tremendously frustrated in their first NFC East outing of 2004, particularly since they coughed up the ball seven times in a game that offered many chances for them to win. The frustration continued on Monday night, as the Redskins lost 21-18 to the Dallas Cowboys.
But the way Brown has battled at right tackle is among the positives to take away from both games.
"Ray's played a long time in this league, and he's a very smart player," head coach Joe Gibbs pointed out the day after the Redskins-Giants game. "He played very well in there Sunday. I'm sure glad we had him in there."
Saying that he was simply "grateful for the opportunity," Brown joined the Redskins in mid-August. He played in a reserve role in the opener versus Tampa Bay before moving into the starting lineup on Week 2 at New York.
"It feels good," Brown said upon beginning his second stint as a Redskin on Aug. 12. "This is where I grew up as a football player."
Way back in 1986, Brown entered the NFL as an eighth-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals. He spent two years in St. Louis and one in Phoenix before joining the Redskins in 1989 for a six-year run.
Brown entered the 2004 campaign having played in 231 games and his start in the Meadowlands was No. 190 in his career. Between 1994 as a Redskin and 2003 in Detroit, Brown missed just one start. That was in 1997, in San Francisco.
He put it this way last month: "I've always taken it one year at a time. I'm grateful for the years I've played. Hopefully I have 16 more games to give the Redskins this year."
Brown's best year in the league may have been 1998, when he made the Pro Bowl after having started all 16 games at left guard for the 49ers, who led the NFL in rushing. This year, he's in his second go-around with assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel. Bugel's last year in his first stint with the Redskins was 1989, Brown's first with the club.
Asked about his future plans in terms of longevity, Brown added: "I'm excited about this year. I don't look beyond that. I promised Joe Gibbs I'm going to work as hard as I can. I'm going to give, because so much has been given to me.
"Earlier this year, I was in California and I knew I wanted to play football again. I just never envisioned this happening. So I want to contribute in any way I can."
Since the departure of Darrell Green in 2002, the Redskins have not really had an elder statesman. Brown can step into the leadership void--and he appears willing to help mentor younger players.
"I can contribute in the locker room," says the Marion, Ark., native. "I've been through a lot of things, and I've seen a lot of things in this game. I'll share with my teammates as much as was shared with me. That's what veteran ball players should be willing to do, and have to do."