ASHBURN, Va. – Like many of his Washington Redskins teammates, Derrick Dockery shook his head when asked about this week's game.
"Why," Dockery said, "couldn't they come here?"
Better yet, why are these two teams playing at all? For the final preseason game — the one that usually means the least — the NFL's schedule-makers are sending the Redskins to visit the Arizona Cardinals on Thursday.
"It is a little unusual," coach Mike Shanahan said, "traveling that far."
Not counting their American Bowl trip to Japan in 2002, the Redskins haven't had such a long journey for a friendly since a game against the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992. For the sake of convenience — and also because it's cheaper — exhibitions are usually held against nearby teams, if possible. Washington's usual staple of preseason destinations includes places such as Baltimore, Jacksonville and Carolina.
The flight to Phoenix is the longest any NFL team will make during the preseason this year and is longer than any the Redskins will make during the regular season. In addition, a good chunk of the roster will be flying 3,300 miles roundtrip just to stand on the sideline, because Shanahan usually sits his starters, as well as his top backups, in the final preseason game.
"It's kind of like a bye week," No. 2 quarterback Rex Grossman said.
Grossman hadn't expected to play, although Shanahan said Grossman might get the start before yielding to fellow backups John Beck and Richard Bartel. Starting quarterback Donovan McNabb wouldn't have played even if he weren't dealing with a sprained ankle.
The division of labor was stark this week. Players who won't be playing against the Cardinals had a different schedule that included a head start on preparation for the season opener against Dallas on Sept. 12.
"There are players on this team that are preparing for Week One," center Casey Rabach said. "I'm looking at Dallas."
For players further down the depth chart, however, this isn't a throwaway game at all. The final cuts are Saturday, when the roster is slashed from 75 to 53 for the start of the regular season. This is the last shot for anyone on the bubble.
"This game, of course, I've got a big mindset to go out there and make some big plays," said undrafted rookie receiver Brandon Banks, "and show the coaches what I've got and that I belong here."
So, while Dockery and other starters were at their lockers Tuesday answering questions about the movies they plan to watch on the flight, others were finding ways to deflect the tension that comes as cutdown day looms.
"There's no pressure playing football," said Bartel, who has been trying to make a regular season roster since 2007 and has been cut by three other teams. "There's a lot of people unemployed trying to provide for their families, that's pressure. Whether or not you're going to play in the NFL, that's not pressure."
Notes: The Redskins cut LB Hall Davis, LS James Dearth, S Lendy Holmes and OL Edwin Williams in the first round of cuts to get the roster down to 75. Davis lasted only one practice after being acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Rams for a conditional draft pick that the Redskins will likely get back. Dearth's release shows the coaches are content to go with inexperienced Nick Sundberg at long snapper, despite his struggles early in training camp.