New punter is latest change for 'Skins

Pro Football

September 27, 2005|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins' special teams haven't been so special lately.

And so for the third time in as many weeks, Washington made a change to the unit, waiving punter Andy Groom in favor of former Cleveland Brown Derrick Frost yesterday.

The move comes two weeks after the team signed former Maryland kicker Nick Novak to replace John Hall, who strained his quadriceps in the Redskins' 9-7 season-opening victory over Chicago.

Washington (2-0) made room for Novak by waiving return specialist Antonio Brown, whose fumble in the third quarter of that game led to the Bears' touchdown.

"Hopefully, we'll settle down there, but I think it's something that we continue to look at," coach Joe Gibbs said after practice at Redskins Park. "Starting the year off, I would've said that we were all set. It just shows you that in the NFL anything can happen at any time."

Frost is the fourth punter to arrive in Washington. Incumbent Tom Tupa suffered a back injury during the preseason and was placed on injured reserve, effectively ending his season.

The team brought in Chris Mohr to compete with Groom for the position, but Groom won the job.

Groom, however, did not fare well in the regular season. The former Ohio State punter ranked 31st out of 32 in the NFL in punting average (39.0 yards) and 25th in net average (34.8).

Frost, who played for the Browns last season, averaged 40.0 yards a punt and a 35.4 net average. He also registered 24 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line and only four touchbacks.

Frost is remembered by Ravens fans for a 7-yard punt from the Browns' end zone in a game between the AFC North rivals last November. The punt set up the Ravens' game-winning touchdown.

"This is a crucial year for me to show people that I can still get it done," Frost said, acknowledging that miscue. "As a young guy, when something like that happens - for whatever reason, it did - it's kind of a black eye because in this league, you're only as good as your last punt."

Frost also will be the holder for - at this point - Novak against the Seattle Seahawks (2-1) on Sunday at FedEx Field. Hall did not practice yesterday, and Gibbs said he would need assurances that Hall is healthy enough to play.

"To be quite truthful, he's going to have to come back and kick some for us," Gibbs said. "I think he's got to be 100 percent. I don't think you can go out there at anything less than that."

Running back Ladell Betts and wide receiver James Thrash are the primary kickoff and punt returners, respectively. Offensive tackle Jon Jansen is listed as the emergency backup to long snapper Ethan Albright, but Jansen is playing with casts around two broken thumbs.

Gibbs said he would talk with special teams coach Danny Smith to find another long snapper.

Notes -- Cornerback Walt Harris (calf), safety Pierson Prioleau (hamstring) and Jansen did not practice. Middle linebacker Lemar Marshall (groin) was limited, while safety Sean Taylor (shoulder) and tight end Robert Royal (fibula) practiced. ... Washington's defense moved up one spot to third in the league rankings as the Philadelphia Eagles fell from third to fifth. The offense dropped two places to 12th as the New England Patriots (12th to sixth) and Oakland Raiders (from a tie for 13th to ninth) leapfrogged the Redskins.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

Seahawks@Redskins Sunday, 1 p.m., Ch. 5, 1430 AM, 106.7 FM Line: Redskins by 2

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