- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington is taking about one-third of the practice snaps with the Washington Redskins' starting defense, another sign that the draft's second overall pick is approaching first-string status.

"[Practicing Arrington with the starters] is part of what we're doing," coach Norv Turner said yesterday. "He's taking about a third of the reps right now with the first group."

Incumbent starter Greg Jones continues to take the other two-thirds of snaps at the strongside position. Arrington has been a second-stringer ever since he missed a week of quarterback school for the birth of his first child. He then held out the first six days of training camp and looked rough in his preseason debut.

Arrington got his first first-string snaps Saturday in the 24-0 preseason win at Cleveland. Entering midway through the second quarter, Arrington raced into the Browns' backfield on his fourth play and tackled tailback Rahshon Spikes for a 3-yard loss. Arrington later forced a fumble, made a fumble recovery and had two more tackles.

Now the race is on for the starting slot.

"Greg played well last year," Turner said. "Greg at times doesn't make the real big plays, but I think back to the first play of [last season's] Detroit playoff game and he made a big play very similar to the play LaVar made in the Cleveland game.

"Greg's a great player and we're lucky to have both of those guys. I would think they both would play a lot at that position and then in some other situations."

Neither Arrington nor linebackers coach Foge Fazio wanted to talk about Arrington's practice time with the starters.

"I thought I was just giving Greg a break," Arrington said. "I don't know. We'll see."

Starting middle 'backer Derek M. Smith, meanwhile, confirmed both Arrington's progress and the work he has left.

"He's coming along physically," Smith said. "He has his legs back underneath him. But he still has a long way to go. He gets a little fooled by some of the looks and adjustments."

Brad still out

Starting quarterback Brad Johnson is expected to return to practice today after missing a second straight day with a toe inflammation. Johnson once again stayed home.

"I talked to Brad this morning, and he's watching reruns of Regis & Kathy Lee," Turner said jokingly. "No, he's feeling much better. I think he'll be out here tomorrow afternoon."

Said trainer Bubba Tyer: "We have got him off his feet, taking his antibiotics. We will see how he's doing [today]. We're taking it day-to-day. But the redness and soreness and infection are clearing, so that's a good sign."

Watching the wire

Turner said the Redskins will be watching the wavier wire as their two punters, 15th-year veteran Tommy Barnhardt and first-year veteran Rodney Williams, compete for the starting job.

"[The waiver wire] will have an influence," Turner said. "I would prefer our punter be a guy who has been with us the last six weeks, but you never know who's going to become available or how we perform on Friday night."

Dukes eager to return

Doctors continue to hold out running back Chad Dukes, even though Dukes, suffering from a swollen knee, feels good enough to return. Dukes is especially eager because of his bubble status for the final 53-man roster.

"I'm trying to get on the trainers," Dukes said. "They're saying, 'It's preseason; we're not trying to get you hurt.' They're looking long-term, and I'm saying, 'There might not be a long-term.' "

Turner, however, said the final decision will be based on what Dukes did at the start of camp. Despite two fumbles in the preseason opener, Dukes rushed 23 times for 86 yards and two touchdowns, and caught seven passes for 29 yards.

"Guys get hurt, and guys miss two weeks during the season," Turner said. "I have got to base my evaluation on what Chad did early in camp and in the first two preseason games. He played real well."

Extra points

Fullback Mike Sellers (shoulder) and starting weakside linebacker Shawn Barber (knee) are doubtful for Friday's preseason finale against Pittsburgh… . Starting left guard Keith Sims (knee) participated in full practice after sitting out team drills Monday… . Defensive end Nolan Harrison was a bit sore after returning to practice Monday, but "he did well," Tyer said… .

Free safety Matt Stevens was excused from practice for personal reasons… . Tight end James Jenkins (back) saw a back specialist and missed practice. Jenkins' injury appears to be a bruise… . Cornerback Tim Denton (toe) missed practice and is day-to-day.

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