- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 14, 2000

Mark Carrier's weekend was filled with all kinds of non-football activities. Out in Phoenix, where he makes his offseason home, he played some golf, went to dinner and a movie with his wife and even attended a Phoenix-Miami NBA game.
Darrell Green was out of town, too, doing some work for a church in Tennessee. Keith Sims was at his Florida home, tending to restaurant operations and making sure he watched no football whatsoever. And although Shawn Barber stayed in town, he sounded like he took a mental voyage to a distant land.
"I just put my leg up on a stool and sat there for three days straight," Barber said yesterday. "I didn't take four steps the whole weekend."
OK, that's not really true. Barber went to see his alma mater, Richmond, play James Madison in football. But his weekend, like those of teammates like Carrier, Green and Sims, ultimately was spent without thinking much about the Washington Redskins, who finally got to enjoy an open date 11 weeks into the NFL season.
"It was [a] physical and mental [break]," Carrier said. "You weren't concerned with watching a football game or getting your mind mentally ready to do this or that as far as dealing with football. It was, 'Hey, what do you guys want to do today? OK, let's go do that.' "
A two-game losing streak was waiting when they returned to work, thanks to turnovers and special-teams gaffes in defeats to Tennessee, 27-21, and at Arizona, 16-15. The Redskins (6-4) hope their brief respite yields better mental focus and physical execution in the season's six-game stretch run, which begins Monday night at the defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis Rams (8-2).
"After that disappointing loss in Arizona, [the open date] couldn't have come at a better time for the entire team," Sims said. "[We can] take a step back, regroup and get ready for the final push now."
And quite a push it must be. The Redskins currently are on the outside of the playoffs looking in. Detroit, Washington and Tampa Bay are tied at 6-4 for the third and final wild-card spot, and the Lions would get the tiebreaker with a 2-1 record in games among the trio (the Redskins are 1-1 and the Buccaneers are 1-2).
In Washington's favor, though, are remaining NFC East games against the New York Giants, the division leaders at 7-3, and Philadelphia, which stands a half-game ahead of the Redskins at 7-4. In addition, current wild-card leader New Orleans (7-3) could fold down the stretch after feature running back Ricky Williams broke his ankle Sunday.
Meanwhile, Washington knows it followed an early two-game losing streak with five consecutive victories and that it basically outplayed its past two opponents (gaining 330 more yards and twice as many first downs) only to make crucial, silly mistakes.
"We feel we can play with anybody, but it's going to take a complete team effort," fullback Larry Centers said. "We have to understand that the room for error has been narrowed. We've got to go out and show in our play that we realize that."
The open date helped heal a variety of injuries, though not all. Most significantly, quarterback Brad Johnson will miss Monday's game because of his sprained MCL. Johnson, a Pro Bowl selection in 1999, will not practice this week and hopes to return Nov. 26 against Philadelphia.
"I feel much better than I did last week," Johnson said. "I'm walking much better. I'm able to do my rehab much better. I can walk up the steps instead of [using] the elevator… . I'll test it out a little bit this week nothing specifically. We'll make a decision when it's time."
Most of the other injury news was positive. Barber (sprained knee) increased his practice participation from Thursday and is expected to play, while the banged-up receiving corps is the healthiest it has been in the past three weeks, according to trainer Bubba Tyer.
Sims, however, conceded that his Achilles' tendinitis isn't healthy enough to help football-related activities, even though it felt better as he walked around Redskin Park.
"[The rest] helps, but it doesn't make that much of a difference," said Sims, who will play Monday but is unlikely to practice this week. "Whenever I try to do something on it, it's basically the same. But I think we'll get through it. We've got six games left, plus the playoffs, and hopefully we'll get through to the offseason."
Standing apart from teammates who enjoyed the three-day vacation was quarterback Jeff George, who started his first game for Johnson at Arizona. Even that evening George couldn't wait to get back onto the field, and he spent his weekend splitting moments with his newborn son, Jayden, and going through mental reps with the offense.
"Some guys like to get away from it," George said. "Me, personally, I can't get it out of my mind. I visualize a lot of things. I visualize this team having a lot of success. I was champing at the bit to get back out on the field and go at it again. Most guys feel the same way, but some guys are beat up, and the time off did them well."
Notes Rookie defensive tackle Del Cowsette, a seventh-round draft pick out of Maryland, was released from the practice squad to make room for guard Derrick Fletcher. Fletcher was released from the active roster last week when kickers Eddie Murray and Scott Bentley and specialist Kenny Shedd were signed.
"I hope we haven't [parted ways with Cowsette] for an extended period of time," Turner said. "He's a practice-squad guy, he's a guy who's got a chance and we'd like to get him back. [But] from a numbers standpoint, what we're trying to get done on special teams, what we're trying to get done in practice, he was the guy we had to let go." …
Strong safety Sam Shade was unsuccessful in his appeal of the $7,500 fine he received for a Week 2 helmet-to-helmet hit on Detroit quarterback Charlie Batch. The league recently affirmed its judgment against Shade, he confirmed.

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