WASHINGTON — Art Monk also works at catching privacy. Alone at the top of the list of career pass receivers in Redskins history, he was close to by himself during a moment others in his position would have savored with the world.
When the clubhouse doors swung open after another Redskins victory that seemed lots closer than it ought to have been, Monk ducked out. His was the path least cluttered out of RFK Stadium, through a few fans and then up a near-empty ramp. Sonny Jurgensen's old escape route.
"I don't want any distractions," Monk said, politely, when someone mentioned he appreciated that judge-me-by-my-performance attitude but couldn't quite understand it just now.
A couple of Redskins immortals were tossed Monk's way: John Riggins, who almost surely would have taken several classy curtain calls on the field after something similarly stunning, and Joe Theismann, who could build a lounge act around a halfway decent day at the office.
Monk shrugged and moved doggedly ahead, only to be turned halfway around all of a sudden by a tug and: "Hi, baby."
That was his wife, Desiree, enjoying the few seconds they would have to themselves. She kissed him and then Reggie Branch, tagging along, moved toward Monk in a playful way that suggested he might do the same.
Laughing, Monk pushed him aside.
A short and twisty walk away, Charley Taylor was squinting in the spotlight Monk had avoided and asking the obvious: "Where's Art?"
It was Taylor's record Monk had broken with catch number 650, on an efficient but not especially elegant pattern in which he bumped away from a Charger near the line of scrimmage, grabbed the ball and gained 15 yards.
Earlier in the week, Monk asked Taylor if he thought the game would be stopped after the record catch. Taylor thought not, it being a team record instead of the National Football League standard.
Games stop for such as Steve Largent, who Sunday caught the 100th touchdown pass of his career and broke one of the oldest and most secure records in the league. Taylor figures only injuries could keep Monk from such a tribute.
"Before Art's finished," Taylor said, "he'll be number one."
In his final season, Seattle's Largent has a chance to add to his total of 820 catches. At No. 3, and behind the retired Charlie Joiner, Monk is healthy and part of an offense that features lots of short passes. (Monk's 45 career touchdowns are 34 behind Taylor's.)
As his position coach, Taylor has the closest look at Monk. What does he appreciate most?
"He works at it," Taylor said.
Monk knew enough to hang onto the precious ball he'd caught late in the third quarter; quarterback Mark Rypien took it from Monk and lateraled it toward the sideline for safe keeping.
But the ultimate receiver of the important football will not be who you think it might be. The ball Monk caught to become Washington's all-time leading receiver will not grace Monk's den.
"I want it," Taylor said. Smiling, he talked about saying to Monk: "You've taken everything else of mine. Let me have that."
"I know there are better things ahead for him," Taylor said.
Taylor recalled his record-setting catch had come during a loss. Monk's came fairly close to being a joyous part of an otherwise embarrassing game for the Redskins.
The Chargers were most obliging. One of their receivers, the normally sure-handed Wayne Walker, dropped a pass at the Redskins 20-yard line not long before halftime. No Redskin was close to him.
That spoiled a chance for San Diego to build on a 14-0 lead the grateful Redskins quickly cut in half. Later, two Chargers dropped interceptions Rypien had all but dropped in their laps.
Washington's defense was as fierce -- and almost as unyielding -- as usual late in the game, the Chargers becoming the first team in five games to score a second-half touchdown against it.
Still, Richie Petitbon was in a down mood.
"I think we're running out of miracles," the assistant head coach-defense said of a unit making do with rookies in place of veterans at several critical spots. "And without Charles Mann (who suffered a pinched nerve in his neck), we'd be out of miracles."
As to why the defense turned stingy after two early Chargers touchdowns, Petitbon said: "We were determined to stop the run, make 'em beat us with the pass."
The Redskins kept nipping at the Chargers with field goals and finally passed them for good with a pass, a 33-yarder from Rypien to Gary Clark on fourth down. Deciding against a modest gamble on fourth-and-four, Rypien went for the touchdown ranch -- and pulled it off.
Monk could walk away happy.
"Watching him catch punts at Syracuse," Taylor said, "I knew he had potential."
Here Taylor became more serious than usual and said: "I heard Art tell someone that if he were elected to the Hall of Fame he wanted me to present him (for induction). I love him like a son."
Nearby, another Hall-of-Famer was buttoning a jacket and recalling an early glimpse of Monk. Like Taylor, Bobby Mitchell had seen Monk play running back in college and projected him as an excellent receiver in the NFL.
"I saw him," Mitchell said. "Bobby (former general manager Beathard) saw him. Everybody saw him. Now, if Art hadn't done well, nobody would have admitted seeing him. The great ones everybody takes credit for."