- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 24, 2000

Washington Redskins first-year defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, in a rare interview, yesterday discussed being an assistant coach again, as well as the possibility of returning to a head coaching job.

"I enjoy [being] hands-on," Rhodes said. "I enjoy being around the guys. I enjoy the everyday part of it. I also enjoy the part that a lot of people don't enjoy, on Mondays after a game, when you have to go critique all these guys… .

"[The head coaching] question comes up all the time. Right now I'm having fun doing what I'm doing. I'm sure that, at some point, that [issue] will come back up. But right now I just want to have fun and enjoy the game."

Rhodes, 49, had made himself all but unavailable this summer in an effort, he has said, to show respect for sixth-year coach Norv Turner. Rhodes came to Washington after going 8-8 as Green Bay's coach last season and 30-36-1 as Philadelphia's coach from 1995-98.

Rhodes is expected to turn around the NFL's 30th-ranked defense. He has new starters in end Bruce Smith, cornerback Deion Sanders and free safety Mark Carrier, as well as rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington, the draft's second overall pick, who is trying to crack the starting lineup.

Rhodes is known for his aggressive style and the respect he commands from players. Much of the latter can be attributed to the input he seeks from them as he tries to construct a strategy around their strengths.

Sanders, for example, played under Rhodes in 1994, when Rhodes was the San Francisco 49ers' coordinator. Sanders called obtaining Rhodes the team's "biggest move of the offseason."

Said Rhodes yesterday: "We constantly talk about the strengths of our players, what's best for this football team… . If you have an idea of things that guys like, you can [implement them]. I don't want to force-feed. When you start trying to force-feed, you really make a mistake."

Rhodes' implementation was limited by the public nature of training camp practices and compounded by the Redskins' decision to charge admission, which allowed scouts to attend.

"We have a lot of things we want to put in, but the key thing is that, regardless of what you have in, the guys have to be able to play it," Rhodes said. "I don't want to do too much. I want guys to be able to go out and play… . You have to keep guys in a comfort zone, and that's why you can't put in a million things."

Rhodes certainly was not in a comfort zone during the interview, even though he was good-natured about it. He said that such sessions are what he least misses about being a head coach.

"You have to realize, being a head coach, I had to deal with this," Rhodes said. "That's why you guys get five minutes. I'm not going to dodge tough questions, but I'm not going to make myself available every day."

George might start

It now appears reserve quarterback Jeff George might start tomorrow's preseason finale against Pittsburgh after Brad Johnson missed another day of practice because of an infected toe.

"When [Johnson] gets here, we'll see where he's at," Turner said. "If he's anything less than 100 percent, he not only won't start, he won't play."

Johnson apparently made progress but remained home.

"Brad's better, but we have been told by doctors to keep him off his feet," trainer Bubba Tyer said. "There's a chance tomorrow afternoon he could work out. We're taking it day-to-day."

However, losing Johnson might not be such a bad thing, Turner said.

"I'd like to see [Johnson] play, [but] if he doesn't it's probably good for our team to see Jeff start a game and play a quarter," Turner said. "We may be in that situation at some point in the season."

Extra points

Punter Tommy Barnhardt, a 15th-year veteran competing for a job against first-year veteran Rodney Williams, missed practice because of spasms between his shoulder blades. He is day-to-day… . Starting defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson (knee) did some running on the side for the first time. Said Tyer: "He was excited. He didn't feel any [discomfort]." … Running back Chad Dukes (knee), cornerback Tim Denton (toe) and tight end James Jenkins (back) did not practice.

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