RB Byner, DL Williams on last legs Age, injury shelve Redskins veterans

October 14, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- The fight against time, age and injury may be the toughest battle for any pro football player.

Just ask running back Earnest Byner and defensive lineman Eric Williams.

The Washington Redskins veterans, both 31, seem to be losing the battle in their 10th season.

Born a month apart in 1962, the two joined the Redskins in trades that rejuvenated their careers, Byner in 1989 and Williams in 1990.

Both started on the 1991 Super Bowl championship team, and Byner had two 1,000-yard seasons before falling just short (998) last year.

This year, though, has been one of frustration, as both have seen limited action and watched the Redskins (1-4) struggle.

Byner is being phased out of the offense and Williams, who has missed the past two games with injuries, said he probably will retire at the end of the season.

Byner is healthy but has been replaced by younger, faster running backs. He has carried just three times for 11 yards, and yesterday he couldn't hide his frustration.

"I know I can still play," he said. "It's not a question of whether I can make plays. I don't fight it because I don't want to be a distraction."

The Redskins have a simple explanation for Byner's reduced role. Offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower said Reggie Brooks is the starter and Brian Mitchell is a receiver-runner. As the team has emphasized the three-receiver set and the two-tight-end alignment, it hasn't used the two-back set.

Meanwhile, Byner can only ponder his future as a free agent next year. With a salary in the $1 million range, he doesn't know what the market will be.

"I'm hoping they'll change that thing and make it a soft cap or something," he said. "A lot of guys are going to take pay cuts. Guys like myself . . . it's going to hurt."

Williams, meanwhile, knows what his future is. His hip is in such bad shape -- he has a congenital condition -- that he figures this is his last season.

"At least, I know in my heart and I think the people know this is my last go-around," he said.

Williams has missed the past two games and just hopes he can play again this year because the team is short of defensive linemen.

He returned to practice yesterday and was encouraged. "My biggest concern was that I'd fall down and be carried off," he said.

He'll have a better idea today if he can play again when he finds out if practicing inflamed his hip.

NOTES: Four of the team's 10 defensive linemen -- Charles Mann (knee), Jason Buck (shoulder), Shane Collins (foot) and Tim Johnson (thigh) -- didn't practice. Mann and Buck won't be able to play Sunday in Phoenix, but the Redskins still hope Collins and Johnson may be able to go.

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