Schottenheimer showing quick moves

Redskins coach turns coy on cornerback starter

November 14, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - With a three-game winning streak and a new lease on postseason life, things are getting serious for the Washington Redskins as they return to work after an open date.

The easiest way to tell is the effort Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer is applying in saying as little as possible.

Presented the opportunity yesterday to be definitive about the roles and health of some key players heading into Sunday's game in Denver, Schottenheimer took the road less clear on just about every occasion.

For instance, when asked after practice whether rookie cornerback Fred Smoot or veteran Darrell Green would start Sunday, Schottenheimer dodged and weaved like running back Stephen Davis approaching a linebacker, presenting scenarios in which either could start.

"I think we have the best of all worlds," said Schottenheimer. "We have a young player [Smoot] who has an opportunity to develop. The only way he'll get a chance to develop is if he plays. He performed well while he was available.

"On the other hand, we've got a veteran guy [Green] who has seen it all. He doesn't need every rep because he can stand on the side and watch it, unlike a young player who needs that experience."

Smoot was the starter for the first five games, but missed two games with a bruised leg and returned in a reserve role in Washington's 27-14 win over Seattle two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, Green, in his 19th and final season, has been stellar, leading the Redskins in tackles in the comeback win over the Carolina Panthers, which launched the team's three-game win streak.

Schottenheimer declined to say whether merit or health would be the determining factor in picking the starter.

"I just want to make sure that before we reinsert Fred that he's 100 percent. What can we do with our football team with the two players available to give us the best chance of winning?" said Schottenheimer, adding that even if Smoot is 100 percent, he would wait until kickoff Sunday to decide.

The stakes have been raised with the Redskins' wins over Carolina, the New York Giants and the Seahawks. They trail NFC East-leading Philadelphia by two games, with a meeting with the Eagles one week from Sunday.

Schottenheimer was likewise noncommittal on the returns of linebacker LaVar Arrington and tight end Stephen Alexander from high-ankle sprains, saying that both are "50-50" at this point.

Alexander, who hasn't played in three weeks, did some running yesterday for the first time since he was hurt, but did not practice.

"I'm hoping I can do some more running [today], continue with that, and hopefully practice by the end of the week to show the coaches that I'm ready to do it," said Alexander, who has nine catches this season.

"I think their deal is they don't want to hear it, they want to see it. I'm itching to get back out there, and I'll do anything to get this thing better."

Arrington, who has missed just one game this season because of injury, despite playing with some ailments, also did some running yesterday, but said he was sore and seemed a bit farther away from returning than Alexander.

"If I can't keep up with a guy or if my movement isn't up to the standard where it should be at the least, then I know I'll be hurting the team," said Arrington, who took himself out of the Packers game with a knee ailment that caused him to miss the succeeding game with Kansas City.

NOTE: The Redskins will open the NFL's 2002 preseason on Aug. 3 in Osaka, Japan, in an American Bowl game against the San Francisco 49ers. Washington will play host to the Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots and travel to Carolina and Tampa Bay in other preseason games, according to a schedule released by the league yesterday.

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