Redskins wondering whether to laugh or cry at being 0-5

Coach plays off issue of job security, says he prefers a loose team

NFL Week 6

October 21, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Perspectives are slightly off-kilter these days in the Washington Redskins' locker room.

Far from the somber tones one might expect from a team that is 0-5, Redskins players such as defensive end Kenard Lang and fullback Donnell Bennett have been heard singing lively '70s tunes at the top of their lungs in an effort, no doubt, to shake off the blues. By contrast, offensive tackle Chris Samuels admitted that he "cried like a baby" in private after Monday's 9-7 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

"That's the only thing that made me feel better," said Samuels, a second-year player.

Samuels, of course, wasn't the only player bothered by the loss to the previously winless Cowboys in a game the Redskins, who led from early in the fourth quarter until the final play, could easily have won.

"We need to let that go," linebacker Robert Jones said of Monday's game. "We're 0-5. There's nothing we can do about it, but there is something we can do about it this Sunday."

For the record, coach Marty Schottenheimer, presumed to be as old school as coaches get, said he'd rather have the players singing and loose than uptight and brooding.

Of course, Schottenheimer, in his first season in Washington after two years of retirement, has a few more things to worry about than what the players sing in the locker room.

Both The Washington Times and The Washington Post reported last week that Schottenheimer's job security is threatened if the team doesn't play better. Schottenheimer said he wasn't "motivated" by job security but by "preparing, teaching and winning."

To do the latter today against the Carolina Panthers (1-4), Schottenheimer said the Redskins will have to do something they haven't done well to date - minimize mistakes.

"You get nine guys doing it right and two guys doing it wrong, and you're going to have a breakdown," Schottenheimer said. "We have to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds, the false starts, the dropped balls. We're operating now with a very low margin for error."

The defense has steadied itself in the past two weeks, even with injuries to defensive ends Marco Coleman (elbow) and Bruce Smith (shoulder) and linebacker Shawn Barber (knee), but the offense continues to sputter, as quarterback Tony Banks struggles to master Schottenheimer's complex scheme and other players make mistakes at critical times.

"Every now and then, we've got one guy messing up, and we have 10 guys making the play, and I include myself in that," Samuels said. "On offense, you have to have 11 guys on the same page."

Yet, for all the inefficiency on offense, Schottenheimer has announced only one non-injury lineup change for this week - veteran Ben Coleman, who has been hobbled all season with knee problems, will return to right guard, replacing rookie David Brandt. Walter Rasby will start at tight end for Stephen Alexander, who suffered a high ankle sprain Monday night and will be out today.

On defense, Barber is out for the year and Coleman and Smith will miss this week's game, though both appear closer to returning. However, rookie cornerback Fred Smoot, the team's second-round draft choice, will be out this week with leg injuries that open the door for 19-year veteran Darrell Green to regain his starting position.

Today's game is the first of a three-game homestand and opens a swing in which the Redskins will play seven of their last 11 games at FedEx Field, where, perhaps, the tune will change.

"We just have to keep fighting and staying together, because we're all we've got. And that's enough," said linebacker LaVar Arrington. "It's got to change, at some point, some way, somehow. I just keep hoping. We're working so hard. We can't be that bad, to just keep losing. I just feel like it will happen. I can't give any predictions, but we're just fighting."

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