- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Antwaan Randle El’s huge day as a punt returner for Pittsburgh against Washington in November 2004 was a big factor in the Redskins signing him to a six-year, $30 million contract 16 months later.

However, Randle El has been a bust as a punt returner for the Redskins. Sunday’s fumble that set up New Orleans‘ first touchdown could lead to him being replaced by Santana Moss or sharing the role.

“I’m not down on [Randle El] at all,” coach Jim Zorn said. “We just need to get more production. We’ve got Santana if we need to make a change. You’ll see them both continue to work [at least in practice] as we go along.”

Randle El averaged 9.5 yards as Pittsburgh’s punt returner for four years. He averaged 8.8 yards for the Redskins in 2006, slipped to 6.1 in 2007 while dealing with a balky hamstring and knee and has a paltry 4.2-yard average through two games this season.

“In Pittsburgh, I wasn’t on the field nearly as much, and doing punt returns I had a little bit more energy,” Randle El said. “Maybe Santana will get back there a couple of times. We’ll treat it as a 1-2 punch. I enjoy being back there. It’s not a burden or anything like that. If they want to do the rotation, that’s fine, but I’m going to get going. This year I plan to have a much better year.”

Moss led the AFC with a 16.5-yard average for the New York Jets in 2002.

“I’m not back there for my health,” Moss said about fielding punts in practice. “I told El if he needs a break, I’ll be ready. I don’t want to be a full-time guy, but if we switch up every now and then and put me back there, it will keep teams guessing.”

Cooley regrets blog post

Redskins tight end Chris Cooley apologized Monday through a team spokesperson for a picture on his blog that exposed his groin area and included a pregame quiz for the team’s tight ends.

“It was an accident,” Cooley said. “When we realized it was up, we took it down immediately. We didn’t mean to offend anybody, and we’re very sorry it happened.”

Deadspin and other Web sites were able to secure the photo before it was removed from Cooley’s blog, though Deadspin later covered Cooley’s exposed area with a Redskins helmet.

The quiz, given each Saturday night before a game, asked the tight ends to describe the play of New Orleans’ defensive ends, explain how the Saints match the Redskins’ “Zebra” personnel, name the Saints’ starting safeties in two personnel groups and answer whether their safeties change in nickel situations.

Zorn was made aware of the picture late Monday afternoon.

“The one thing I would say which is quite interesting for all coaches in today’s technologically sound world at any level is that there is MySpace, there’s Facebook, there’s blogging,” he said. “I just think it’s something most coaches have never had to deal with or have dealt with. This will be my first experience.”

Zorn said he will tell the team in a Wednesday morning meeting that posting anything regarding the Redskins’ game preparations will be prohibited.

“Chris used poor discretion using that type of prop,” he said. “My first thought is to make it a team-wide statement because it’s not just Chris - anybody can do that. I see Chris as a common sense kind of guy. We just move on and have it not be an issue.”

Extra points

Veteran third receiver James Thrash was wearing a walking boot after suffering a high left ankle sprain against the Saints. He missed four weeks last season with a similar injury.

Thrash’s absence is compounded by the latest injury to rookie wideout Malcolm Kelly. Kelly, who missed the July 26 intrasquad scrimmage with an ailing hamstring and had his left knee scoped Aug. 4, sprained an ankle against the Saints and is questionable for this week’s game with Arizona.

If Thrash and Kelly can’t face the Cardinals, rookie Devin Thomas would be the only backup to Moss and Randle El. Washington could promote Devin Aromashodu, who caught seven passes for 96 yards as a Colts rookie in 2007, from the practice squad. …

Fred Smoot had to leave Sunday’s game after aggravating the hip pointer that knocked him out of the Giants’ game, but the cornerback said this injury is less serious and he will be ready for Arizona. …

Rookie Durant Brooks is last in the NFL in both gross (36.8 yards) and net (28.3) punting. Veteran Derrick Frost, who was cut in favor of the sixth-round draft choice, is a respectable 12th in both categories for Green Bay.

“I’m a rookie,” Brooks said. “I haven’t proved myself. I had a bad game, and I’m sure there’s tons of questions wondering if I can get the job done.”

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