- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

It has been nearly seven months since the Washington Redskins' season ended on a bad snap. The 14-13 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers prevented the Redskins from reaching the NFC Championship game for the first time since 1991.

It seems only fitting the Redskins face the Bucs Friday night in the preseason opener at Raymond James Stadium. Super Bowl XXXV will be in Tampa, Fla., and the Bucs are among the NFC favorites along with the defending champion St. Louis Rams and Redskins. Washington also faces Tampa Bay on Oct. 1. There will be several chances for redemption but only one chance for a good first impression in a season filled with the highest expectations.

"I'm upset with Tampa Bay still for taking the game away from us last season," fullback Larry Centers said. "I'm going to approach it like a regular-season game."

Yet this is only a taste for fans eager to see a team filled with marquee players from an aggressive offseason. The starters mostly will work a few series before leaving for long shots who merely are hoping to survive the first roster cuts Aug. 22.

"You want to come away with a good feeling," coach Norv Turner said about the starters. "It's nice to build a little momentum, but I don't think you get a lot out of it other than getting them started playing together. We have a lot of decisions to make with our young players, and we would like something to base those decisions on, and I think games are the best thing."

Quarterbacks Brad Johnson and Jeff George will play about 10 snaps each, with rookie Todd Husak relieving in the second quarter. Running back Stephen Davis will be withheld as he continues to ease into camp after a short holdout. Running back Adrian Murrell will start, with Skip Hicks probable despite a sore hamstring.

Defensively, ends Bruce Smith and Marco Coleman (bruised thigh) won't play, nor will cornerback Darrell Green, who has missed a week because of his father's death. Ends Kenard Lang and Ndukwe Kalu will start. Cornerback Deion Sanders should play about 10 snaps.

Only 30 players remain from the playoff loss, in which a bad snap prevented a possible game-winning 52-yard field goal. Deep snapper Dan Turk wasn't re-signed, Johnson no longer holds and kicker Brett Conway is sidelined with a strained thigh. Still, some players admitted they will look over at the 42-yard line, where last season's hopes ended.

"You want to say there's no revenge, but it is a little exciting," linebacker Derek Smith said. "I just want to hit somebody different. It's a different look and different energy."

Countered defensive end Marco Coleman: "I have a grudge match against every team we play. You want to just get some work in, get out healthy and get ready for Carolina [in the season opener Sept. 3]."

Added fullback Mike Sellers: "I'm usually paying people back anyway."

But the road to the Super Bowl may go through Tampa Bay. The Redskins and Bucs have a budding rivalry that's unusual considering they're not in the same division. Washington eliminated Tampa Bay with a late-season victory in 1998 after the Bucs helped ruin the Redskins' 1996 hopes with a mid-December triumph. Then there was last year's season-ending loss.

"That was an emotional way to end the season, so that will be in the back of our minds," offensive tackle Jon Jansen said. "But it doesn't play a factor in this game."

Said linebacker Greg Jones: "I don't know if it's a rivalry, but there's a little something there.

Meanwhile, Turner said communication between his coaches also will be tested during the game. Because of six new assistants, including defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, the constant flow of information needs to be refined.

"You want to see where you are in terms of game-day communication," Turner said. "That will be the same throughout the game no matter who's in. We rehearsed it for a few plays in the Baltimore scrimmage, but the games are different."

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