- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 9, 2001

Washington Redskins center Cory Raymer missed both practices yesterday after he experienced swelling in the rehabilitated right knee that kept him out all last season.

Raymer might return today, but coach Marty Schottenheimer wouldn't say definitively. Taking first-string snaps was Mark Fischer, who started all 16 games last season while Raymer came back from a torn ACL.

"I just got it tweaked a little bit [Tuesday]," said Raymer, 28. "It was feeling real good. Actually, I took a real good hit, and I'm glad it happened. It was one of those things without the knee brace and … it might have been a little more serious."

Said Schottenheimer: "I don't even know that it's related to the surgery of a year ago. Like Michael Westbrook [who also is coming back from ACL surgery], you just want to make sure that you don't overuse it."

Last August, Raymer was injured when a teammate fell on his knee in practice. He suffered partial tears in his ACL and MCL and damaged his meniscus. He attempted to return but fully tore the ACL in late September during a routine agility drill.

Meanwhile, middle linebacker Kevin Mitchell returned to some drills after missing several days with a sprained ankle. He remains first-string, but Robert Jones, signed as a free agent in June, is making a run at the job after taking Mitchell's reps in practice.

"It's a good competition," Schottenheimer said. "I still think, on the basis of familiarity with what we're doing, Kevin's got a bit of an advantage. But clearly the gap has been closed."

Schottenheimer made an informal injury report for Sunday's preseason opener at Kansas City. Quarterback Jeff George (shoulder), defensive back Eric Whitfield (shoulder) and offensive lineman Ross Tucker (knee) are out, while tight end Stephen Alexander (hamstring) and defensive end Marco Coleman (back) are doubtful.

Alexander did more more running and caught a few balls on the side, while Coleman returned to some drills.

Wild man

The receiving corps has enjoyed a sharp preseason, and a big reason is the surprising contributions of young players like Justin Skaggs.

The 6-foot-2 undrafted rookie out of Evangel (Mo.) has made a variety of nice catches, but that's not enough to make this team. With competition from Darnerien McCants, Derrius Thompson, Willie Spencer and Latef Grim for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots, and with Michael Bates and Winston October fighting for spots as returners, Skaggs must stand out on special teams.

That's where his wild streak, often on display in practice, comes in.

"It's just my desire to make this team," Skaggs said. "God's put a passion in me for this game. I've just got to do what I've got to do. If that means knock somebody out, that's what I'm going to do."

Skaggs honed his edge last spring in the Arena Football League 2, playing three games before being picked up by the Redskins. The league, in addition to giving him his first real audiences (15,000 vs. 2,000 at Evangel), pitted him against true loose cannons.

"I remember one play the whistle had blown and I got annihilated," Skaggs recalled. "[The hit] wasn't even on tape because it was so late. My helmet flew off. It was a mess. Those guys are nuts."

Extra points

Schottenheimer acknowledged that veteran defensive end Bruce Smith "likes to grumble." But the coach quickly added, "I'll tell you what: The minute he puts his hand down on the ground out there, it's all business. He's as good a worker as we've got." …

October will be the No. 1 punt returner against Kansas City, ahead of Kevin Lockett, McCants and Darrell Green… . Players had the evening off, with no commitments between the end of practice and midnight bed check. Said Schottenheimer: "It's important from a physical standpoint but just as important from a psychological standpoint."

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