Redskins' Stokes having 'a great time' at camp Mann's injury gives him chance to excel

July 30, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

CARLISLE, Pa. -- Don't tell Fred Stokes that these are the dogs days of training camp.

With three weeks left, it's a tedious time for some players.

Stokes isn't in that group. For the Washington Redskins' defensive end, it's a day at the beach.

"I think some guys want to get in camp and get out of camp. I'm enjoying camp. I'm having a great time," he said yesterday as the veterans began their second week of drills.

That's because Charles Mann's ailing knee has given Stokes a shot at opening the exhibition season Sunday night in Pittsburgh as a starter.

"I'm not downgrading him [Mann] or taking anything away from him. It's not an opportunity to try to take a position or anything. It's just an opportunity for me to get better," he said.

Stokes led the team last year with 7 1/2 sacks as a pass-rushing specialist after signing two years ago as a Plan B free agent from the Los Angeles Rams.

He is now getting a chance to play full time and polish his skills against the run.

"I need to work on my techniques against the run because I wasn't in there that much [on running downs]. I think for me my biggest thing is to maybe give the coaches a little confidence in knowing that if Charles doesn't get in there, we won't be lacking too much with Fred in there," Stokes said.

Another plus for Stokes is that his left shoulder, which bothered him in camp last year, has survived the pounding of playing full time.

On the first day of camp, he suffered a bruise, and his first thought was, "Here we go again." But he was able to finish the practice, and it hasn't slowed him down.

LaVern Torgeson, the defensive line coach, said that playing on the left side in Mann's spot may help protect Stokes' left shoulder because he doesn't use it at much as he did when he shared the right end slot with Markus Koch.

The Redskins don't even like to think about what would happen if Stokes went out.

"We're deep at defensive tackle, but thin at defensive end, very thin," coach Joe Gibbs said.

The only three experienced defensive ends on the team are Mann, Stokes and Koch.

By contrast they have Tim Johnson, Eric Williams, Tracy Rocker, James Geathers and top draft choice Bobby Wilson at tackle, and they'll be joined by Darryl Grant when he recovers from his calf injury.

Meanwhile, the Redskins keep wondering how long Mann is going to be out. They've decided to have a knee brace custom made for him and that may arrive tomorrow, but trainer Bubba Tyer stressed the brace isn't a cure-all.

Mann's had several operations on the knee, the latest last February, and eight years in pro football may simply be taking its toll.

Mann hasn't been giving interviews in camp, but Torgeson said: "Right now, we're waiting until he gets the brace. We're going to try that and see how everything feels. We're not going to rush anything. We'll get him ready as soon as he can. We can't set a date or anything like that."

Gibbs said: "I'm hoping he'll be back any day. A lineman can't get ready without being hit. We could have a problem."

Mann is wearing pads and has been able to go through some of the drills on the blocking machines, but hasn't been able to do live drills yet.

For his part, Torgeson isn't passing out any bouquets to the defensive linemen, although he said Stokes has been playing "pretty well."

"We're a little rusty. They're coming along, but we're not reacting the way we should. We're not getting rid of blockers the way we should. We might be a little behind."

Stokes said: "He's been telling us that. Once you start scrimmaging, you want to see things happen. Maybe we are a step behind, but I think in time we're going to be back to where we need to be."

NOTES: The Redskins waived free-agent LB Demetrius Douglas, who last played in the Canadian Football League, to cut their roster to 79 players, 1 under the limit. . . . RB John Settle (bruised ribs) has returned to action. . . . Second-year OL Mo Elewonibi (knee) remains sidelined.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.