CANTON, Ohio — It’s always a wonderful weekend, the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement. Long ago heroes return to Canton and are accorded the respect they deserve. Fans get to commune with the game’s glorious - if often forgotten - history. A handful of lucky players are granted immortal status and ushered into the pantheon.
And then they ruin it all by staging a preseason game nobody really wants to play.
Well, not nobody. Undrafted rookies and assorted other long shots probably look forward to it, figuring it will be one of their few chances to show they belong. And the coaches … the coaches look forward to every opportunity for their team to “get better.” That’s why they’re coaches.
But for just about everybody else, it’s like unpaid overtime - an extra exhibition game the rest of the league isn’t subjected to. Heck, Jon Jansen lost an entire year of his career after suffering a torn Achilles here in 2004. Without him, the Redskins went 6-10 and had to resort to playing 41-year-old Ray Brown at right tackle.
So the Colts were only too happy to hold Peyton Manning, Dwight Freeney and Bob Sanders out of Sunday night’s glorified scrimmage against the Redskins. Granted, they’re all recovering from injuries, but really, what’s the rush? The Real Games don’t start until September, and Indianapolis plans to be playing well into January, if not longer. You don’t want to spill any important blood on the artificial turf of Fawcett Stadium.
Not to be outdone, the Redskins rested Clinton Portis, Sheriff Gonna Getcha and all of Clinton’s other alter egos. Newcomer Jason Taylor also was given the night off, as were London Fletcher and Cornelius Griffin.
Early on, Indy’s Joseph Addai left the game with a head injury. His return, the press box announcer said, was “questionable.” To which I replied (to no one in particular): “Is it his return that’s questionable, or is it the severity of his injury that’s questionable?” This is, after all, the preseason. Folks are very precautionary.
For all the game’s insignificance - apart, that is, from it being Jim Zorn’s unofficial debut as the Redskins’ coach - you had to appreciate the Colts trying an onside kick on the opening kickoff. (Washington’s Chris Horton foiled them by falling on it.) You also had to love Tony Dungy’s team for running 14 consecutive no-huddle plays in its first series, which ended with an Adam Vinatieri field goal. At least they weren’t totally mailing it in.
The Redskins, meanwhile, put together a snappy three-play, 45-yard touchdown drive after Horton’s recovery - a drive of such import that no one will remember it a month from now. (Just as no one remembers the Redskins marching the length of the field on the first possession of the Norv Turner Era.)
Antwaan Randle El scored the TD on a 20-yard pass from Jason Campbell. Let’s hope people will remember Randle El a month from now. There are a bunch of young, able-bodied receivers in camp.
On the whole, the Redskins accomplished what they set out to do - and even came away with a 30-16 victory. None of their players needed an ambulance or a tourniquet, and there were any number of things to feel good about, the play of the quarterbacks chief among them. Jason Campbell was a perfect 5-for-5, Todd Collins missed only one of six throws and rookie Colt Brennan was a revelation, laying the ball up beautifully to Billy McMullen for a 34-yard gain, hitting rookie Marcus Mann in stride for a 20-yard score and threading a pass to Jason Goode for 26 more yards.
Feel free to get excited, Redskins Nation. It looks like the kid can play. Yes, defenses are much more basic in the preseason, but we’re talking about a sixth-round pick here - a sixth-round pick who already seems to know what he’s doing.
Oh, and did I mention his ability to escape the rush and find open receivers (which he did on a 5-yard TD throw to Marcus Mason)? Reminds you a little bit of another Zorn pupil, Matt Hasselbeck. (And of Tony Romo, too.)
Miscellaneous Hall of Fame Weekend Thoughts:
cLoved the quintet that played at the enshrinement dinner Friday night, especially the selections from “West Side Story,” “Porgy and Bess” and “Swing.” With Art Monk going into the Hall, though, it would have been nice if we’d gotten to hear some of the music of Art’s distant relative, the late great jazz pianist Thelonious Monk.
cSeeing Redskins icons Charley Taylor and Bobby Mitchell at the various festivities, I couldn’t help thinking: Younger fans will never truly understand what rare players they were. I mean, how many running backs of recent vintage could have done what they did, switch to wide receiver in the middle of their career and become stars at their new position? Answer: Marshall Faulk and possibly Marcus Allen. That’s it.
And Taylor and Mitchell were darn good backs before they made the transition. In fact, were both Pro Bowlers at that spot. Their reception totals - 649 for Taylor, 521 for Mitchell - may have been dwarfed by Monk (940) and Jerry Rice (1,549), but these guys were incredible talents.
cJust wondering: How much closer would Ken Harvey be to the Hall if he had played all 11 of his seasons with the Redskins (instead of the first six with the Cardinals)? Would he be bordering on Andre Tippett territory? As it was, Harvey had 89 sacks (to Tippett’s 100) and was voted to four Pro Bowls (to Andre’s five).