- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 30, 1999

Redskin Park had a different feel yesterday than it has had in a long time. Banners that read "1999 NFC Eastern Division Champions" were strung on either side of the front door. The secretaries and the receptionist were wearing hats with the same inscription. And everyone knew that coach Norv Turner had job security for the first time since the start of last season, following a meeting with rookie owner Dan Snyder on Tuesday.

"As I said in August when all this came out in terms of making the playoffs, it was pretty clear to everyone what Mr. Snyder wanted to see accomplished," Turner said. "He and I had a good meeting yesterday. One of the reasons we felt it was needed was because there was a lot of speculation that I didn't want to be here, that even if we made the playoffs I wouldn't be here. He's the owner and my boss. That's where you start with the relationship. You learn about each other and continue to grow. I feel good about our future."

And Turner's players felt good for him.

"I'm glad Coach Turner's going to be back," said guard Keith Sims, who can become a free agent in March. "He's the only coach who was willing to give me a realistic opportunity to come in and be the old Keith Sims [after being cut by Miami in 1997 and Philadelphia in 1998]. I have a lot of respect for him. Norv has persevered through a lot of adversity, and that's reflected in our team. That's why we don't give up. We're not fazed when we're down or when we lose a game. [Snyder's] edict was a little more widespread than just the coach. Everybody in this locker room knew we were basically all on one-year contracts if we didn't accomplish something this year."

However, quarterback Brad Johnson said while Snyder's quick decision took the pressure off a lot of people, that pressure from above hasn't affected how the Redskins have played. But others were more inclined to agree with Sims.

"I have a lot of respect for Coach Turner," said fourth-year safety Leomont Evans, another potential free agent. "He drafted me. He gave me a chance to start. My heart has always been here. It makes it easier to come back now that I know Norv's going to be here. I wasn't surprised because Mr. Snyder had always said that if we made the playoffs that Norv would keep his job. He stuck to his word. Norv has been under a lot of pressure. I felt bad for him. I tried to play hard every week because of the statement that Mr. Snyder made."

Playoff rookies

For 31 Redskins and five of their coaches, this will be their first time in the playoffs.

"It's fantastic, it was worth the wait," said running game coordinator Bobby Jackson, finally postseason-bound in his 17th NFL season.

Said reserve linebacker James Francis, a 10-year veteran who came to Washington on Oct. 26 after being waived by Cincinnati, "I'm not playing that much, but I might be the happiest guy on the team."

And backup defensive tackle Marc Boutte, one of five players to have lasted through Turner's six seasons: "I don't know how to act. I haven't been in the playoffs before."

Davis, Connell sidelined

Running back Stephen Davis, who missed Sunday's playoff-clincher at San Francisco with a sprained left ankle, didn't practice. Neither did receiver Albert Connell, who re-injured his left shoulder against the 49ers. Trainer Bubba Tyer, who listed Davis as questionable and Connell as probable for Sunday's regular-season finale against Miami, said both are improving.

"Stephen had his best rehab workout," Tyer said of Davis, who hasn't been on the field since he was hurt in the second quarter Dec. 19 at Indianapolis. "It's a marked improvement since last week."

Davis, who fell 98 yards behind the Colts' Edgerrin James in the NFL rushing race but still leads St. Louis' Marshall Faulk by 103 yards in the NFC competition, walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes, rode an exercise bike for 20 and ran in a swim tank.

Like Davis, Connell probably won't practice today but might tomorrow. Connell has a pinched nerve in his neck and a sprained shoulder. Backup guard Brad Badger, who suffered a high right ankle sprain against the Colts while subbing for Sims, took limited work and is improving slowly. Safety Sam Shade, who missed much of the second half against the 49ers with a strained hamstring, is fine.

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