Redskins opt for alternative: platooning Petitbon planning to rotate linemen

August 04, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

CARLISLE, PA — CARLISLE, Pa. -- Richie Petitbon has been thinking about using a rotation system for his defensive linemen for a long time.

"It's just like going on a diet. I've been going on a diet for the last 40 years, but this time we're going to do it," the Washington Redskins coach said yesterday.

Petitbon said his major new wrinkle on defense this year will be to rotate the linemen -- switching two at a time each series -- to keep them fresh. That means there won't be any full-time players even though Petitbon knows that some players may not like the idea of coming out.

"They'll bitch and moan. There's no question about that because everybody wants to play every down. You just can't let them run the show," he said.

The early indications, though, are that Petitbon isn't going to get much complaining.

The player who'll be affected the most is Charles Mann, who has played full time most of his career, but likes the idea of alternating.

"I love it," he said. "I think it's great [as long as] they don't take me out too long and I get cold. I think that's what the league is evolving into, platooning defenses."

Petitbon said there's no particular reason he's trying it this year, but he might have been influenced by the Dallas Cowboys, who did it a lot last year. Copying championship teams is an old football tradition.

"I think rushing the passer is the most difficult thing in football. It's the hardest thing physically, especially in today's game when they're throwing 30 to 40 times a game. That's a workout. When you have to do that 16 games, you wear down," Petitbon said.

Another factor is that the Redskins failed to sign Reggie White and saw their offer for free agent Wayne Martin was matched by the New Orleans Saints.

Since the strength of the team's defensive line is now depth instead of one or two dominating players, they figure they might as well use the depth.

There are three proven ends in Mann, Al Noga and Shane Collins and three solid tackles in Eric Williams, Bobby Wilson and Tim Johnson. There's also veteran Jason Buck, who can play all four positions, and rookie Sterling Palmer, who has potential as a pass rusher.

Besides Mann, the two players affected the most are Johnson, who played full time last year, and Al Noga, who was a full-time player with the Minnesota Vikings before signing with the Redskins as a free agent. Both said they have no problems with the new plan.

Petitbon said he'll have to make up a rotation system in advance because the temptation in a game is to

stick with the starters.

"That's the only way to get it done because if you think about it [during the game], you'll never do it," he said. On passing downs, he'll continue to use the four best rushers. That means going with Mann, Noga, Johnson and Wilson.

Mann, who hopes to rebound in his 11th season at age 32 after being bothered by knee problems the past two years, says the Redskins will wind up having a good line.

"I would have to put us right up there at the top of the league. We've been together a few years and we all know what we can do. We all hustle," he said.

Players are supposed to hustle, but Mann said there are many players on other teams who don't.

"You look at the defensive linemen in the league and a lot of the guys don't hustle. If they're at the point of attack, they'll work hard. But there's not a lot of guys now running stuff down like L. T. [Lawrence Taylor] used to do in his heyday. We watch films of other teams and they rush the passer and then they turn and watch the ball thrown. You don't see us do that."

Mann isn't quite 100 percent yet after underdoing surgery for a bone chip in his left knee in February (he injured the knee working out in April of 1992 and now regrets he didn't have surgery then), but expects to be

at full strength for the season.

"I wouldn't know how to act if I didn't have anything bothering me," he said. "That's part of life."

NOTES: Collins injured his shoulder in practice yesterday. He's not sure how long he'll be out. . . . Three players, Tom Carter (back), Stephen Hobbs (abdominal pull) and Matt Elliott (knee) were sidelined yesterday. . . . The Ricky Ervins holdout is in its third week with no end in sight.

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