Redskins' Howard hopes to catch on with new coaches

April 09, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- Desmond Howard hopes to get a fresh start with the Washington Redskins' new regime.

After the first practice of coach Norv Turner's first minicamp at Redskin Park yesterday, nobody was smiling more than Howard.

"I feel great," Howard said. "I'm very optimistic. I think we're very comfortable with what he's installing in the offense so far. The players have a lot of confidence in Norv."

The Redskins invested two first-round picks in Howard by trading up to make him the fourth selection of the 1992 draft, but his first two years were disappointing.

The 1991 Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan, Howard got off to a slow start as a rookie after he held out and found himself playing behind three veteran members of The Posse -- Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders.

Last year Howard had to come back from shoulder surgery and then was slowed by a pulled groin muscle in training camp. He wound up starting only five games and catching just 23 passes all year.

He found himself being labeled an expensive bust, but he said he hopes all that is behind him.

Just the fact Howard was talking to reporters was a change from last year. He stopped giving interviews after a 24-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 1 because he felt he was unfairly criticized when two passes intended for him were intercepted.

"They did everything but blame that game on me," Howard said. "It was my first game of playing a whole game and I ran one wrong route and you would think it was a tennis match and I just lost it by myself. I thought I had 10 teammates out there with me. They tried to make me a scapegoat for that."

He also complained that when he replaced Sanders in the starting lineup, some media accounts portrayed it as if he had replaced Monk.

"Your stories were that they sat Art Monk down to play this Heisman Trophy winner who hasn't panned out. That wouldn't have been a big enough story [that he replaced Sanders]. It was like I was replacing Art, which is sacrilegious up here in D.C.," he said.

"I didn't read about it. I just heard about it," Howard said.

He also took issue with the coaches on last year's staff who suggested his practice habits were a problem.

"I've always been a hard worker," he said. "When that came out, not only did it surprise me, but it even shocked my peewee coach in Cleveland. All I can do now is look ahead and have you talk to these guys and ask them how I'm practicing."

On the first day, Howard got good reviews from Turner.

"I thought he did some good things," Turner said. "I feel he can be a good receiver."

Now that Monk and Clark are gone and Howard is the No. 1 receiver, he has to show he can live up to his college billing.

"This is a big year for Desmond Howard as far as stepping up and performing," said general manager Charley Casserly.

NOTES: The Redskins waived defensive lineman Al Noga and signed long snapper Trevor Matich to a two-year, $700,000 deal. . . . Casserly said he's talking to the agents for four wide receivers -- Sanders, Henry Ellard, Michael Timpson and Haywood Jeffires -- and hopes to sign one of them before the draft, April 24-25. . . . . Quarterback Mark Rypien said he's willing to at least "discuss" taking a cut in his $3 million salary, although he hasn't yet discussed figures with the Redskins.

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