Two-back offense gives Mitchell a running start at tailback slot

July 21, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

CARLISLE, Pa. -- Brian Mitchell was mobbed by autograph seekers yesterday as he left the Washington Redskins weightlifting tent after a morning workout.

Instead of trying to dodge them, Mitchell signed every notebook, picture and even the back of one kid's shirt until all the fans got their autographs and the crowd melted away.

Mitchell, who'll be 25 on Aug. 18, is obviously enjoying his time in the spotlight.

"I have a motto that if you never get asked for your autograph, you're not doing something good. Autographing is part of the job. The fans make the game and you've got to take time out for them. An autograph can do more for a little kid than somebody else talking to them or telling them something. They can get their autograph and always look at it and want to try to be like you. My dad always told me, 'Never think you're more than the next person.' You can go a lot further in life that way," he said.

Mitchell now seems intent on going a long way and enjoying every minute of the trip.

Mitchell spent three productive years on the special teams until he had the game of his life against the Minnesota Vikings last January, gaining 209 total yards, including 109 rushing, in the Redskins' 24-7 playoff victory.

Although the Redskins lost to the San Francisco 49ers the next week (Mitchell had a shot at a go-ahead touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but the muddy ball slipped out of Mark Rypien's hands on the handoff), Mitchell had made a name for himself in the backfield.

"He can make some plays," said new offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower. "He's a cut-and-slash guy. He gets the ball and if he gets a little crack, he's got enough acceleration to burst for a good distance. We're hoping he can be the starter."

The only question about Mitchell, who'll also continue to do some kick returning, is whether he's durable enough.

Mitchell, 5 feet 9, 208 pounds, says he'll be helped because coach Richie Petitbon is adding a two-back offense.

"I'm better suited [for the two-back] because they can't just key on one guy. When John Riggins was here, he was able to take all that pounding, but we're not that big," he said.

Since Ricky Ervins is holding out, Mitchell is getting first shot ahead of rookie Reggie Brooks at the starting tailback job. He's broken long touchdown runs on the same play the last two practices, bouncing outside on one play and going up the middle on the other.

Mitchell said he's ready for the challenge.

"I think once you're relaxed, you can perform a lot better. I think I've settled down a lot. When I came in as a rookie, I was like a real fireplug, hothead type. Now I'm more relaxed. I'm a lot calmer," he said.

"If I don't end up running the ball, it's all my fault. I can't blame anybody else. For the first three years, I don't think I had a chance. Now I've been given the chance so it's up to me. I believe I can do it," he said.

NOTES: Petitbon may be losing his patience with Ervins. With the talks deadlocked, Petitbon said, "If I were Ricky Ervins, I'd be in camp. It's not a problem for me, it may be a problem for him." . . . CB Tom Carter, the team's top draft pick, was sidelined with a pulled hamstring yesterday. The Redskins say it's a minor ailment, but their top two picks the last two years -- Carter and Desmond Howard (strained groin) -- are now both out.

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