Marshall chafes at switch Redskins linebacker dislikes left side

August 15, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

CARLISLE, Pa. -- This is the summer of discontent for Wilber Marshall.

The career of the veteran Washington Redskins linebacker has taken an unwelcome turn.

When the Redskins opened camp a month ago, Marshall said he wasn't happy that the team was switching him from right linebacker, where he has played his whole career, to left linebacker, where he'll have to tangle with the tight end.

The Redskins closed camp last night, and Marshall wasn't any happier about the move when he left than he was when he arrived.

"You just don't get comfortable," he said. "It's like starting all over again. You get paid to do whatever they tell you to do. I keep telling people I don't understand it."

The move is the latest indication that the Redskins' decision to give Marshall a six-year, $5 million contract as a free agent from the Chicago Bears in 1988 hasn't paid the dividends that they thought it would.

Another indication is that there have been persistent rumors the Redskins would like to trade him and unload his big contract, which calls for salaries of $1.2 million this season and $1.3 million in 1992.

The latest report, in Houston, was that the Oilers turned down an offer of Marshall for defensive end Sean Jones.

Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that he's told Marshall in the past to ignore those rumors.

"That's been going on for over a year," Gibbs said of the trade reports. "I've talked with Wilber and said, 'Hey, you've got to learn to live with it, because, evidently, it's going to continue.' "

Marshall brushed off the trade speculation yesterday, saying, "That means other people want you."

Marshall continues to hold out hope that the Redskins might scrap the switch and return to last season's alignment -- Marshall on the right side and Andre Collins on the left side.

"Right now, he's [Collins] still a little shaky about it. The thing is, we've got to get him ready. We've got only a few weeks left. Hopefully, he'll pick it up. If not, they might have to make that move again and swap us," Marshall said.

Even though Collins, in his second season, struggled in the first exhibition game before improving in the second one, the coaches say Marshall is staying on the left side.

"That's a permanent switch. I've said that from Day 1. Nothing's changed," said Richie Petitbon, the assistant coach who runs the defense.

Collins said he's getting more comfortable on the right side, but he can understand Marshall's frustration.

"I can sympathize with Marshall. He's played the right side all of his career, and he was comfortable with one thing. Now, he has to just flip-flop. It's just like eating with your right hand all your life and then trying to eat with your left. It's a little awkward at first," Collins said.

The right-side linebacker gets a chance to make more big plays, because he's not fighting off the tight end's block.

There are two explanations for the switch. Marshall's is that Collins had trouble with the tight ends.

"They tell me Andre couldn't play over the tight end . . . and I guess

they wanted to keep him in the game," Marshall said.

Petitbon agrees that Collins had some trouble with the tight ends, but he also notes that Collins is better on pass defense.

"I think it best suits our abilities," Petitbon said.

Collins, 23, plays every down, and Marshall, 29, often comes out on passing downs.

The move probably means that Marshall never will have the impact in Washington that he did in Chicago.

"That defense was a go-get-it defense," Marshall said of the Bears. The Redskins play more of a disciplined defense and don't blitz nearly as much as the Bears did.

It also could be that Marshall isn't the player at 29 that he was on the Bears' 1985 Super Bowl team at 23.

The Redskins won't concede they made a mistake signing Marshall.

"He's played good football for us," coach Joe Gibbs said.

Meanwhile, Marshall expresses no regrets about signing with the Redskins. He's going to get $6 million.

"I'm not saying I didn't deserve what they gave me, because I definitely believe I deserved it. I worked my rear end off to get what I got," he said.

Marshall even says he deserves a raise when his contract expires in two years, and is looking for the Redskins to give him an extension at the end of this year.

"I would assume they're happy with what's going on. I haven't heard any complaints yet," he said. "If they want me, they know what I did for the team.

"I sacrificed for the team, and I haven't bitched and groaned about not getting this or that. I would hope they'd take it from there. I'll be happy if I get something decent. I'm not going to be asking for the world, because they took care of me."

NOTES: Gibbs closed training camp after holding an intrasquad scrimmage last night. The team will drill at Redskin Park today for tomorrow night's lone home exhibition game, against the Cleveland Browns. . . . Gibbs said he didn't think the team would be able to pull off a trade for Houston DE Jones and said for the second time in camp that he might move a defensive tackle to end. Tim Johnson is the top candidate.

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