'Skins sign tight end to bolster offense

Chamberlain may play against Bucs on Sunday

Pro Football

October 07, 2003|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - In a curious move, the Washington Redskins yesterday signed free agent tight end Byron Chamberlain for the rest of the season.

Chamberlain, 31, is an eight-year pro who was named to the Pro Bowl in 2001 when he caught 57 passes for 666 yards and three touchdowns for the Minnesota Vikings.

He joins a Redskins offense that has thrown to its tight ends just six times in the first five games. And only once since 1996 has a tight end in coach Steve Spurrier's Fun `N' Gun offense gained more than 200 yards in a single season. (Erron Kinney recorded 16 receptions for 226 yards at the University of Florida in 1999.)

But that didn't dissuade Chamberlain from signing with Washington.

"They've got some guys outside that can do some things with Laveranues [Coles] and [Rod] Gardner. I'll just be a complement to those guys," said the 6-foot-1, 250-pound tight end. "I don't know if they've ever had a tight end with the receiving ability that I have. Not that I'm bragging on myself, but that's what I do. ... Hopefully, I'll just be another weapon in the machine."

To make room for Chamberlain, the team released tight end Zeron Flemister, who had just one reception for 6 yards. Robert Royal (five catches for 48 yards) is the team's other tight end.

"We think he will upgrade our tight end position," Spurrier said of Chamberlain during his weekly news conference. "Hopefully, he's a good blocker and a good receiver and will help our team. We'll coach him up as fast as we can and see if he can play this week [against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers]."

Chamberlain has caught 163 passes for 2,019 yards and six touchdowns in his career, but he was suspended by the league for the first four games for taking ephedra.

Last week, the Vikings released the tight end for reporting to camp overweight and out of shape.

Chamberlain said he held no bitterness toward his former employer, saying, "I put myself in that situation. So I had to deal with the consequences."

Meanwhile, one day did little to ease Spurrier's frustrations over the offensive line's inability to refrain from committing false starts.

The line was responsible for six false starts in the team's 27-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Spurrier said further review of the team's first five games showed that the linemen had committed 19 false starts.

"I think seven were when our quarterback was trying to audible a little bit late and 12 were maybe when we were in the shotgun, and they just jumped," Spurrier said. "When we ask them, they don't have a reason for it. So we're going to continue to work on that."

After Sunday's loss, Spurrier had sarcastically suggested eliminating all audibles, but he said yesterday that audibles were necessary.

"Occasionally, we do have to audible, and we are going to occasionally audible," Spurrier said. "We don't do a whole bunch. But we've got a problem here staying still on the offensive line."

The team leads the league in penalties with 55.

NOTES: Quarterback Patrick Ramsey and running back Ladell Betts suffered shoulder sprains against the Eagles, but Spurrier said both won't miss practice. Spurrier also said that left guard Dave Fiore, who missed the past two games because of a sore knee, could return to practice this week. ... Bruce Smith's second-quarter sack of Donovan McNabb gave the 19-year defensive end 1 1/2 sacks for the season and 196 1/2 sacks for his career. Smith is now 1 1/2 sacks away from tying Reggie White's league career record of 198. ... Washington rushed for only 49 yards Sunday - the first time the team hadn't broken the 100-yard mark this season.

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