- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2006

Throughout last season, the Washington Redskins’ coverage teams were a problem. Opponents averaged 11.2 yards on punt returns and 21.5 yards on kickoff returns and had several field-flipping plays.

But just as the Redskins’ offense made strides this season, the coverage teams followed suit, showing marked improvement during a 10-6 season that continues Saturday at Tampa Bay in an NFC wild-card game.

In punt coverage, the Redskins improved from 26th in the league to second (4.7 yards a return) and their kickoff coverage improved from 13th to sixth (20.9). They have not given up a special teams touchdown.

The Redskins were one of only four teams in the NFL to finish in the top 10 in both punt and kickoff coverage and the only team to finish in the top six in both categories.

Special teams coach Danny Smith envisioned that improvement before the start of the season.

“I did because of the people we had, and a good part of that has been continuity,” Smith said. “We have young guys like Robert McCune who weren’t up the whole season but developed, and then we had our consistent bunch that take great pride in their work.”

That veteran core group includes Mike Sellers, Rock Cartwright and Khary Campbell.

“We have good practices, we have good film sessions and it carries over to Sundays,” Smith said. “They play off each other. When you work with the guy next to you for a long time, whether it’s playing football or fixing a car, you get a feel for what to expect from them.”

Injury report

Cornerback Shawn Springs (groin) and defensive end Renaldo Wynn (foot) were the only two Redskins to sit out practice yesterday. Wynn said he was given the day off to rest, and Springs nodded when asked whether he was playing Saturday.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers (biceps) and quarterback Mark Brunell (right knee) took all of the work in practice.

A win for Wynn

Wynn won the B.J. Blanchard Good Guy Award in a vote of 20 media members as the Redskins player who most helped the press do their jobs. Brunell, Ryan Clark, Santana Moss, Marcus Washington, Phillip Daniels, Joe Salave’a and Clinton Portis all received votes in the closest vote in the award’s history.

“Having that many guys being voted [for] just goes to show you the character of the guys we have in that locker room,” Wynn said. “No matter what, during the good and the bad times, guys are willing to still give interviews. A lot of times you don’t find that. You have guys running away during bad times.”

Bet on Ben’s

After one successful food bet involving the mayor of a rival NFL city, Mayor Anthony A. Williams has struck another deal — this time with Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio.

A Redskins victory Saturday vs. the Buccaneers will net Williams six Cuban sandwiches, a Tampa favorite. Williams again will offer up four chili dogs from Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street.

Williams is still waiting on the arrival of four cheesesteaks from Philadelphia Mayor John Street, won as a result of the Redskins’ playoff-clinching win over the Eagles on Sunday.

On a side note, during Williams’ trip to the Redskins-Eagles game in Philadelphia, he garnered a few boos by asking for mustard on his cheesesteak, which in Philadelphia is comparable to ordering a Ben’s half-smoke without the chili.

“I was embarrassed. … I didn’t know,” WIlliams admitted.

Extra points

Sellers was named NFC special teams player of the week after his fumble recovery in Sunday’s win over Philadelphia. It’s the fifth straight week a Redskins player has been honored by the league. …

Marcus Washington was named NFC defensive player of the month for December. …

Campbell is the Redskins’ nominee for the Ed Block Courage Award. The recipients are nominated by their teammates for displaying commitments to the principals of courage and sportsmanship. The award will be presented March7 in Baltimore.

cStaff writers David Elfin and Tim Lemke contributed to this article.

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