Turner toes changing line in Redskins debut NFL TRAINING CAMP REPORT

August 08, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- When new Washington Redskins coach Norv Turner was asked to list his starting defensive line for tonight's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills now that two starters are out with injuries, he began, "Sterling Palmer, Bobby Wilson . . . you're testing me guys."

After the session broke up with a laugh and Turner was signing autographs for a group of fans, he blurted out, "Tony Woods."

Turner never did get the fourth one (Jeff Faulkner), but it's a sign of the times for the Redskins that even the coach can't remember the names of the players.

The Redskins have changed virtually everything but their nickname as they kick off the new exhibition season.

Everything is so new that they're now considered a Not Ready for Prime Time team. Tonight's nationally televised exhibition opener will be their only Monday night appearance of the season. The game will not be shown in Baltimore because Channel 13 pre-empted the telecast for the Orioles game. It'll be carried by Channel 7 in Washington.

The Redskins not only are in a state of flux, they are having problems putting their new team together.

Two defensive linemen, Leonard Marshall (forearm) and Tim Johnson (back), will join three other starters -- center John Gesek (back), running back Reggie Brooks (hamstring) and tight end Ethan Horton (knee) -- on the sidelines.

Despite all that, Turner has an upbeat attitude as he attempts to rebuild a team that went 4-12 last year as he blends the holdovers together with a host of new players.

"I like the way this team works. They've got an excellent work ethic and good energy," he said. "There's a strong nucleus of guys who've been here together and I think they're starting to appreciate the new guys and everyone is getting a feel for each other."

Most of the focus for Turner's first game as a head coach will be on the debut of rookie quarterback Heath Shuler, but the coach is trying to downplay expectations because Shuler has had just four days of practice.

"I'm not going to judge anything he does based on four days," he said.

Turner said he's looking forward to watching the players who have been in camp since it opened July 20, including such young players as safety Darryl Morrison and tackle Darryl Moore and such free agents as Ken Harvey and Tyrone Stowe.

For the fans, though, Shuler's 15 plays -- he'll likely work the second quarter in relief of John Friesz -- will get most of the attention.

Shuler is trying to take it in stride. "Basically, I had a plan when I came here. I wanted to remain calm," he said.

Even a good showing could be misleading because the Bills aren't likely to put much emphasis on the game. They're more interested in preparing for their "drive for five" -- their fifth straight Super Bowl appearance after becoming the first team to lose four straight.

"You can't marry two women at the same time," said Buffalo coach Marv Levy. "You have to have one priority. And our priority is to evaluate personnel. Many of them [other teams], the first priority is to win."

It's fitting that Turner is starting his head coaching career against the Bills. He probably wouldn't have the job if it weren't for the Cowboys' last three games against the Bills. There were the two Super Bowl victories and last year's 13-10 loss to the Bills in the second regular-season game that persuaded owner Jerry Jones he had to pay Emmitt Smith to end his holdout.

Turner, though, doesn't expect to see many veteran Bills playing much.

"I don't think I'll look out on to the field and see the game guys I saw in January," he said.

Charting the quarterbacks

Pencil in Dave Brown as the New York Giants' quarterback to replace Phil Simms.

Coach Dan Reeves isn't ready to announce his decision, but Brown, who had the edge going in as a first-round pick, now XTC seems to have a huge lead over Kent Graham.

Although he was impressive as a backup in the first game, Graham struggled as a starter in the Giants' 24-15 loss to the Cleveland Browns Saturday night. He was 12-for-23 for 122 yards. Meanwhile, Brown came in at the end and was 9-for-15 for 88 yards to stay ahead of Graham.

Mark Rypien may put pressure on Vinny Testaverde with the Browns this year. Testaverde's first 12 plays in Cleveland's victory Saturday night were incomplete passes or losses while working with the first unit. Although he rallied to complete 13 of 28 passes, he can't relax because Rypien came on in the second half and directed the second unit on a pair of field-goal drives.

Scott Mitchell, who got the most expensive free-agent contract this year ($11 million for three years) to direct the Detroit Lions, seems ready to pay dividends on that contract after hitting 10 of 19 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in his first exhibition game, a 26-13 decision over the New York Jets. There's a lot of pressure on Mitchell to produce and he passed his first test.

The injury factor

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