Cory Raymer and Lennie Friedman have combined to start the last 24 games at center for Washington. They have played 16 seasons between them. But come final cuts Sunday, one of the two veterans could well be an ex-Redskin because the addition of starter Casey Rabach from Baltimore gave the team one center too many.
"Cory is one of my best friends on the team, but it's not, 'Can I beat out Cory, or can Cory beat out me?'" said Friedman, 29. "It's how well can I play?"
Friedman, who started the final eight games in 2003 for then-coach Steve Spurrier, was in the lineup when 2004 began. However, two bad games led coach Joe Gibbs to bench Friedman and insert Raymer, who had returned to Washington after two seasons in San Diego.
"It's an easy decision to keep both of them because Lennie plays guard and he'll be our starting goal-line tight end," offensive line coach Joe Bugel said. "Cory is a legitimate center. He's a super-smart, tough guy. That position is critical for us because of all the calls you have to make."
While getting released would be painful for Friedman, Raymer already has been through worse this summer. Last Monday, his wife, Heidi, had to be rushed to an emergency room when one of her fallopian tubes ruptured. Gibbs commandeered one of his racing team's planes to fly Raymer to Colorado to be with her. He missed three days of camp.
"She lost three liters of blood," said Raymer, 32. "The doctors said if she waited another hour she would have bled to death. Fortunately, she wasn't on the road driving the kids back here, which she was going to the next day. I made sure the family was all right, and I had to come back because this is what I do."
Raymer didn't help his chances when a sudden stomach virus kept him out of Friday's preseason game against Pittsburgh. Although Raymer beat him out last year, Friedman's ability to play guard, where he started for Denver in 2001, and even blocking tight end may give him the edge.
"I try to do what's best for the team whether that's guard, center or bringing the coaches water," Friedman said. "Hopefully, the more I can do will be an advantage for me."
With the starting line and Ray Brown and snapper Ethan Albright assured of jobs, the Redskins might well keep just three of four among Friedman, Raymer, tackle Mark Wilson and guard/tackle Jim Molinaro. Wilson and Molinaro saw little action as rookies in 2004. The situation is complicated by the strained back that has sidelined Wilson the last two preseason games.
"I've always been hurt by just playing center, but I've fought through that," Raymer said. "I'm just going to keep going until I come in here and someone is waiting for me to pat me on the shoulder. It will be hard if it comes down to me and Lennie and one of us has to go. It would be easier if you hated the other guy."
While safety Matt Bowen (chest), running back Ladell Betts (ankle) and cornerback Ade Jimoh (neck, thigh) didn't practice, cornerback Walt Harris, tight end Robert Royal, safety Ryan Clark and offensive tackle Mark Wilson returned after being held out of Friday's game against the Steelers. Bowen will not play Thursday against Baltimore.
Rookie linebacker Robert McCune suffered a strained groin during practice. Punter Tom Tupa has yet to return since straining his back in warmups before the Aug. 19 game with Cincinnati. He saw specialist Robert Watkins in Los Angeles yesterday, and his status will be re-evaluated today. Receiver Taylor Jacobs, who sprained his left big toe in the Aug. 6 scrimmage at Baltimore, said he will be back in uniform before the Sept. 11 opener with Chicago.
Like a hurricane
While quarterback Patrick Ramsey's family in Ruston, La., was out of harm's way from Hurricane Katrina, Clark's family in the New Orleans area was evacuated. Quarterback Jason Campbell was worried about his sister's safety in their native Mississippi.