- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2012

Graham Gano put it together in his head as he saw veteran Neil Rackers leaving the Washington Redskins‘ practice facility Monday morning. The two kickers spent the preseason competing for one job, and the sight of Rackers with the contents of his locker represented the end of the battle.

With that, Gano kept his spot.

“We had a good little talk. I was saying he was a big professional about it. He wished me the best of luck this year,” Gano said. “We thought it was going to come down to the last week, but it’s coach’s decision.”

It was a unique competition in that the Redskins only had two field goal attempts in the first three preseason games, both taken by Rackers. The 36-year-old hit from 28 and missed from 54, both at the Chicago Bears on Aug. 18.

Last week, he lamented the missed opportunity.

“It’s disappointing to not have the ball go through the uprights, but at the same time I hit kicks from there and further out at halftime and that ball broke right down the middle,” he said. “If you hit it where you’re aiming, I guess you could call that a mental error. But it’s part of being a kicker at times.”

So is the fact that a notable miss and kicks in practice can be the difference between making a roster and getting cut.

On Monday, the Redskins had to trim to 75 players, and Rackers was one of the first reported to be gone. His locker was empty and Gano was left with not much to say.

“It’s tough. These days are always tough. You make friendships with the guys, a ton of guys throughout the preseason, then to see them get let go, it’s really hard,” Gano said. “I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity somewhere; he’s a great kicker. You wish that we could both be here all year long, but you know that’s just the business. It’s tough. I’m just happy I get the opportunity to be here.”

The opportunity means Gano sticks around for the start of a third season; he has spent some time with the Redskins since 2009.

In 2011, Gano made 31 of 41 attempts, and that 76 percent conversion rate tied him for the second-worst among kickers with at least 30 tries. Ex-Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham made 23 of 31 attempts.

Gano, 25, believes he’s better this year.

“I feel like I’ve improved for sure. I think more mature as a kicker in this league,” he said. “I feel like I did a good job last year, but I’m just looking to improve this year and keep getting better.”

Gano said he didn’t know whether the Redskins would bring in another kicker to provide more competition; instead his focus is on Wednesday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He and Rackers were both hoping for more chances to kick in game action, and perhaps Gano will get that Wednesday, but he won this competition without a field goal attempt in the preseason.

“I think every day Neil and I went out, we knew that practice was going to play a key role in it,” said Gano, who admitted he has never won such a competition without even making an attempt in a game. “That’s the thing, we’ve kicked a lot in practice over the offseason and over the preseason. I’m not sure what played into their decision.”

But the decision was made, and while that filled Gano with some sadness after getting to know Rackers and his family, this was a weight off him.

“Definitely some relief. You’re competing for a job with a guy like Neil, he’s a great guy,” he said. “To be able to come through and win this job, I’m very excited about it. I think we have a great team here and we can do a lot of good things this year. To have that opportunity is definitely exciting.”

Barnes dealt to Lions

The Redskins traded veteran cornerback Kevin Barnes to the Detroit Lions for an undisclosed conditional draft pick in their effort to reduce their roster from 90 to 75 in order to meet NFL guidelines. Washington initially informed Barnes he was being released, but Detroit consummated a deal.

“Here’s a football team that needs a corner; here’s a third-round draft pick that’s got some great speed,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “A little bit different scheme. We got a couple teams talking to us, and all of a sudden somebody will give you an undisclosed draft choice with a chance if he makes the team for you get something in return. It’s a win-win situation for both teams.

Said Barnes: “I’m excited to get another shot to succeed for an up-and-coming young team. I’m just happy they wanted me.”

The Redskins last season soured on Barnes, who was drafted in the third round in 2009 by the previous regime led by front office chief Vinny Cerrato. The team abandoned using Barnes as a slot cornerback this offseason, the first sign he had fallen out of favor.

The Redskins signed veteran cornerback Cedric Griffin in the offseason, and seventh-round rookie Richard Crawford has impressed during training camp and the preseason.

Crawford played as the fourth cornerback late in the first half against Indianapolis on Saturday. Terrapins alum Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall are Washington’s top two cornerbacks. Hall replaced Barnes as the slot corner, with Griffin playing the outside in multireceiver sets.

Barnes spent parts of the past three season with the Redskins, starting three of the 29 games he appeared in. He had two interceptions and 26 tackles in 2011.

Brown has surgery

The Redskins placed right tackle Jammal Brown on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list Monday after he had another surgery on his ailing left hip. Brown must sit out the first six games of the season before a three-week window during which he could be activated.

“It has bothered him for a while, so you’re keeping your fingers crossed that this surgery is going to help him,” Shanahan said. “They think that they found something that will alleviate a lot of the pain.”

Tyler Polumbus will start the season at right tackle, Shanahan said

Roster reduced to 75

Among the Redskins‘ other moves to get the roster down to 75, they waived running backs Antwon Bailey and Lennon Creer, offensive linemen Chris Campbell and Nick Martinez, quarterback Johnathan Crompton, receivers Samuel Kirkland and Lance Lewis (waived/injured), linebacker Monte Lewis, tight end Beau Reliford and cornerback Morgan Trent (waived with injury settlement). The Redskins released veteran offensive linemen James Lee and Tony Moll.

Extra points

⦁ Running back Evan Royster (right knee) said he expects to play Wednesday against Tampa Bay, while Roy Helu (sore Achilles tendons) isn’t feeling as well, according to Shanahan.

⦁ Kirk Cousins will start at quarterback against the Buccaneers.

⦁ Tight end Chris Cooley missed practice because he wasn’t feeling well, and safety Tanard Jackson was out for personal reasons, Shanahan said.