Redskins confront more problems than Bears present today

Morale is questionable after Snyder's reaction, controversy over Turk

October 31, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have to avoid a trap today, and it has nothing to do with their opponent, the Chicago Bears.

After suffering their second loss of the season last week against Dallas, the Redskins (4-2) have a locker room in disarray, with closed-door meetings and "Fingergate," an internal investigation into how punter Matt Turk broke his left middle finger.

So the major question is not whether the Redskins can stop the Bears' running game today in Landover, but whether they can block out all the controversy.

"You have to try and ignore the distractions at all costs," fullback Larry Centers said. "The smartest thing is for each individual to take care of his job. The trust factor is one of the biggest things that can help [us] right now."

Still, players remember coach Norv Turner coming out flushed after a 40-minute "discussion" with owner Daniel Snyder following last week's 38-20 loss in Dallas. They faced more questions about that closed-door session in the visitors' locker room than ones concerning the Bears.

"It's important to always play and work as though someone's got their hand in your back pocket," said left tackle Andy Heck, who was released by Chicago on June 2 after starting there for five years.

"At anytime, you can be on the street. On the other hand, I don't think anyone is afraid here that, hey, if I make a mistake, I'm out of here, including Coach Turner."

Said quarterback Brad Johnson: "It's [Snyder's] first year, and he wants to do well, and we have been doing well. It was just a bad day for us [last Sunday].

"I'm sure he's going to wear his emotions on his sleeves, and that's part of it. We all want to win. You can throw your helmet. You can go crazy. The thing about it is it's over."

The other matter of intrigue centers on Turk and whether he injured his finger during warm-ups two weeks ago before a victory at Arizona or during a pickup basketball game a day later.

Vinny Cerrato, director of player personnel, acknowledged the team is looking into the matter.

Some Redskins feel Turk's absence in Dallas factored heavily in the outcome. Turk's replacement, Brian Hansen, kicked a low, line-drive punt to Deion Sanders, who iced the game with a 70-yard touchdown return.

Veteran receiver Irving Fryar was so distraught about the situation that he had a private conversation with Turk, whose status for today is a game-time decision.

"Rumors are floating around and people are saying different things," Fryar said. "Nobody knows what to believe. Only he knows for sure.

"We needed him and he wasn't there for us. For whatever reason, he wasn't available, and it hurt the team. I was firm with him."

It's not the strongest mind-set to have when preparing for the surprisingly tough Bears (3-4), who haven't played in a game decided by more than a touchdown all season and lost last week at Tampa Bay, 6-3.

Preparation is half the battle against Chicago, which doesn't veer far from its strict offensive and defensive game plans.

The Bears feature a deliberate power running game. In consecutive games against Minnesota and Philadelphia, Curtis Enis had 35 of his 51 carries on first down.

Enis, however, only averages 3.2 yards a carry and hasn't had a run longer than 18 yards this season. That has frequently put a Chicago passing game into long third-down situations.

The Bears have rotated between rookie Cade McNown and Jim Miller at quarterback the past two weeks, but they expect to have starter Shane Matthews back after he was sidelined with a pulled hamstring.

Chicago has scored just one touchdown in eight quarters without Matthews and leading receiver Curtis Conway, who will miss his third straight game today with a sprained ankle. Chicago is 2-10 in games without Conway the past three seasons.

Defensively, the Bears test teams with eight men in the box, moving either strong safety Tony Parrish or free safety Chris Hudson up front to bottle up the run.

Chicago hasn't dominated teams this way, allowing 335 yards a game, but has managed to tighten up at the right times. The Bears have given up an average of 16.1 points a game, seventh best in the NFL.

Nevertheless, it's not a test of how the Redskins match up with the Bears. It's a test of how the Redskins approach the Bears.

"It's not a game that has the significance that the Cowboys had," right guard Tre' Johnson said. "In the past, we would lose this game because we lost the Cowboys game and go through a little downward spiral. We've got to avoid that."

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