ASHBURN, Va. - Watching Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Wane McGarity returning punts on Sunday made Deion Sanders a little envious.
McGarity had what Sanders claims he once had - blocking. Sanders yesterday again criticized the Redskins' special teams for not giving him the chance to work his magic returning punts.
Sanders had one punt return for a respectable 11 yards in Sunday's 32-13 loss to the Cowboys. McGarity, though, had returns of 33 and 27 yards in the first quarter.
"What you saw on the opposite side of the field in Dallas, that is what I was used to before I came," said Sanders, who spent five seasons with the Cowboys before signing with the Redskins in June. "I'm just being honest. It's no coincidence that things have been like it has been punt return-wise."
Finger-pointing during this underachieving 7-7 season for the Redskins has been minimal. But Sanders let loose yesterday on some of his teammates, not naming anyone in particular.
Sanders even said he felt sorry for former Redskin Brian Mitchell, now with the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I feel bad for Brian Mitchell for taking the criticism that he took," Sanders said. "Now, I see on a first-hand basis what he was facing. It's crazy. I welcome [returning punts] with the right unit. I mean, c'mon, you guys aren't crazy. You see what is going on out there."
As in Sanders is getting hit shortly after he catches the ball. The Redskins signed Sanders to a seven-year, $56 million contract hoping he could fill Mitchell's void on punt returns.
"I don't mind taking the heat and taking the criticism," Sanders said. "When you command finances at a high level, you are going to take that. And I understand that. I've understood that my whole career.
"Earlier in the year, it's `I've lost a step. I don't have this. I can't shake one guy.' No, I can shake one guy. I just can't shake 10 guys."
Connell OK with benching
Receiver Albert Connell said he did not have a problem with losing his starting role to Irving Fryar for Saturday's game at Pittsburgh.
Connell said he did have a problem with the reason Redskins interim coach Terry Robiskie gave for the benching. Robiskie said Tuesday that Connell would not start because he felt Fryar could be more productive in that role.
"I understood when I watched the tape and saw it wasn't me," Connell said. "To say they didn't get production out of me, bothers me a lot.
"It's a two-way thing. I'm not back there throwing the ball. The majority of the time, the quarterback is out of the pocket. I'm getting open. I'm running good routes. That's not justifiable to me."
Connell is in the final year of his contract and did not think he would be back with the Redskins next season. He said the organization has done nothing in terms of keeping him.
"No one talked to me, no one mentioned it," Connell said. "It is a long shot. I really think I'm not going to be here next year."
Tight end James Jenkins feels he may also be out the door along with Connell.
Jenkins was inactive during Sunday's loss to the Cowboys. The move baffled Jenkins, who behind Darrell Green, is the longest tenured Redskin, in his 10th season.
Jenkins said he was told the Redskins wanted to get a look at rookie Zeron Flemister.
"From what I was told, as far as looking [at] Zeron, for me that is an indication that they are looking for him to fill in the spot that I've been playing the last 10 years," said Jenkins. "They're just moving forward.
"We were right in the middle of the playoff hunt. I could see if we had no chance for the playoffs and they wanted to see some young talent. But he is a young player. And he's got a lot to learn. I just felt the timing was really bad for it."
Three Rivers finale
The Steelers plan to bring back more than 40 former players for the closing of Three Rivers Stadium on Saturday and have a pre-game, halftime and post-game program. Mel Blount, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert and Mike Webster will serve as honorary captains.