- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rock Cartwright always has been in Washington coach Joe Gibbs‘ core group of true Redskins even when he hardly played except on coverage teams in 2004 and 2005. But Cartwright, who has played for the Redskins longer than any current player except offensive tackles Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels, snapper Ethan Albright and fellow backup running back Ladell Betts, might be in his final days in the District.

Cartwright, a seventh-round pick in the 2002 draft, will have the remainder of his contract voided unless his kickoff return average, now a robust 26.1 yards, somehow drops below 24. With a team-leading 34 special teams tackles, Cartwright surpassed the 25 tackles he needed to help void the contract.

“I want to be here, but my agent [Drew Rosenhaus] and I haven’t heard anything from the Redskins,” Cartwright said. “The last time I was a free agent [after the 2005 season], I hadn’t really played much so no one was going to make me much of an offer. I’ve been doing a good job of returning kicks for two years and I want an opportunity to run the football. I know that’s not going to happen here.”

Cartwright ran for 178 yards on 46 carries in three games as a starter in 2003 and gained a career-high 118 yards on nine carries at St. Louis in 2005 but has just two carries this season.

Betts re-signed with the Redskins Dec. 8, 2006 while en route to an 1,154-yard season that might have earned him a starting spot elsewhere. Cartwright said he’s willing to listen to an offer from Washington, but time is running out.

“I would love to stay, but it’s up to the front office,” said Cartwright, whose salary cap figure this season is $680,000. “[NFL punt return leader] Roscoe Parrish just got [$4.35 million] guaranteed [in a three-year, $10 million deal] from Buffalo. I don’t expect to match that, but I want something similar, some type of security.”

Parrish also has 33 catches as the Bills’ No. 3 receiver. Gibbs said the Redskins designed the contract as a thank you to Cartwright for his years of hard work.

“Rock has been such a great Redskin,” Gibbs said. “We want him back, but we’re not going to talk contract until after the season.”

After breaking Brian Mitchell’s team records for kickoff returns and kickoff return yardage in 2006, Cartwright has raised his average two yards a return. He ranks eighth in the NFL, third in the NFC.

After finishing second in the AFC in punt return average in 2006, Parrish leads the league with a 17.5-yard average. No one has finished with a higher average since Lemar Parrish had 18.8 yards a return in 1974.

Cartwright 26.1-yard kickoff return average is the team’s highest since Mike Nelms led the NFC with a 29.7-yard average in 1981. And while Cartwright won’t reach the 1,541 yards he produced last year, that’s only because the defense is giving up fewer scores.

“My average is better, but it’s still not good enough,” Cartwright said. “I don’t want to just be good. I want to be great.”

Health update

Backup tight end Todd Yoder said his right knee is better but not good enough for him to play tomorrow night at Minnesota. Yoder aggravated a chronic cartilage defect in the knee in practice last week and might have made it worse by playing in last week’s 22-10 victory over the New York Giants.

Yoder, who didn’t practice yesterday, is officially doubtful.

“That’s why we have Koz,” Gibbs said, referring to the decision to bring back veteran tight end Brian Kozlowski last month.

Safety LaRon Landry practiced after sitting out on Thursday with the quadriceps he injured against the Giants. However, backup safety Pierson Prioleau was limited and said while he “feels good,” he won’t know whether he’ll play until he works out prior to kickoff.

Reserve receiver Keenan McCardell practiced after missing part of Thursday with a strained calf and said that he’s good to go. Backup offensive lineman Mike Pucillo was absent again with the chronic back injury that kept him out against the Giants. He won’t play tomorrow.