- The Washington Times - Friday, August 17, 2001

CARLISLE, Pa. Sounding jaded and proclaiming that he will never think of himself as a backup, veteran quarterback Tony Banks joined the Washington Redskins yesterday as insurance in case Jeff George's shoulder tendinitis does not heal.

Banks, 28, signed a one-year, $477,000 minimum-salary deal, slightly less than the $500,000 contract he lost Tuesday when he was cut by the Dallas Cowboys. He will not play in tonight's preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons but will join practice Sunday when the Redskins begin the final five days of training camp in Carlisle.

The signing was prompted by injuries to George and second-year player Todd Husak, the latter of whom suffered a strained rib muscle before completing just three of 10 passes for 27 yards in Sunday's 20-0 loss at Kansas City inn the preseason opener.

Coach Marty Schottenheimer said Banks will compete against Husak and fourth-round draft pick Sage Rosenfels for the backup job behind George, who might not play until the Aug. 30 preseason finale at New England.

The backup-at-best scenario isn't ideal for Banks, who entered Cowboys camp as the unquestioned starter, but it's one he can live with short term.

"I can be happy for a year, but [being a backup] is not my goal in the long run, whether it's here or elsewhere," Banks said. "I consider myself a starter. I'll never consider myself to be a backup. I don't play this game to be a backup."

Banks believes he was "having the best camp of [his] career" before being released by the Cowboys. He briefly considered retirement afterward, fed up with the business side of the NFL. The experience of being abruptly jettisoned clearly made him guarded about this opportunity.

"I don't know how much trust there is [in this relationship], really on my end," Banks said. "[The Cowboys situation] was something that hardened me up a little bit. But … I know how I've been playing, how I've been throwing the football."

Nonetheless, Schottenheimer stated in no uncertain terms that Banks will not compete for the starting job unless George is injured.

"The quarterback is the quarterback," Schottenheimer said. "He's the leader of the team, and he cannot perform if every time he throws a bad ball or makes a bad decision he looks over his shoulder to see who's warming up on the sideline. I'm not doing that to my quarterback."

Banks didn't actually work out before attending the team's afternoon walk-through, saying, "Sixty-some-odd [career NFL] starts if they tried to make me work out, I don't know how I would have responded to that."

Schottenheimer explained that Banks' 61 starts for the St. Louis Rams (1996-98) and Baltimore Ravens (1999-2000) and recent work in the Cowboys' camp was enough to make him sign Banks.

Banks also had a recommendation from Redskins quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer, who was an assistant with the Rams in 1997. And playing a key role in brokering the deal was former Rams coach Dick Vermeil, the current Kansas City Chiefs coach, who spoke to both Marty Schottenheimer and Banks in recent days.

"[Vermeil] was very, very positive about [Banks]," Schottenheimer said. "He's a very gifted player with a tremendous arm and excellent mobility. He's a veteran player; he's started 61 games in his career. He certainly meets the criteria we're looking for."

Banks (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) indeed is known to have a strong arm and good agility, but he has struggled with turnovers (throwing 58 interceptions compared with 61 touchdowns) and what some consider passivity. With the Cowboys, for example, Banks riled officials by not participating as often as they hoped during offseason sessions.

"Some people say he's laid-back and there's not a lot of emotion," Schottenheimer said. "But Joe Montana was that way, and he's a pretty good player."

The question now is whether Banks can adjust his downfield tendencies reminiscent of George's to Schottenheimer's controlled West Coast offense. Banks mentioned George's nature several times while saying he believed he could adjust, adding that he has worked to fit into controlled offenses for the past several years.

Schottenheimer, for his part, said the Redskins' offense has been characterized too much as conservative.

"Hey, we'll do whatever we think we can do best," Schottenheimer said. "I've got no problem getting it in 30- and 40-yard chunks. It's a lot easier to do it that way. The biggest challenge we face is getting Tony acclimated to a system he has not worked in before."

Meanwhile, George, after resuming some light throwing in Wednesday's afternoon practice, as planned did not throw yesterday. He remains hopeful that he will play in the third preseason game Aug. 24 against the Cleveland Browns, but team sources say he isn't expected to return until a week later.

George said he experienced no pain overnight after Wednesday's session.

Notes The Redskins will play the NFC West and AFC South in 2002 according to the rotational schedule announced by the NFL. They begin with the NFC West to ease the Arizona Cardinals' transition out of the NFC East. The AFC South segment includes a game against the expansion Houston Texans, whose general manager is former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly. The new schedule also includes two games against opponents based on the previous year's record, down from the current four… .

Schottenheimer is "cautiously optimistic" about the rehab of guard Ben Coleman (knee), who is receiving a series of painkilling injections after missing two weeks of practice. Coaches hope Coleman will return to workouts early next week and compete to win the starting right guard spot. But, Schottenheimer said, "He's way behind." …

Defensive end Dorian Boose, acquired during camp as a free agent, will start on the right side in place of Bruce Smith (shoulder). Boose replaces Derrick Ham, who has slumped during camp after entering it as the top backup end… . Tight end Steve Brominski practiced with the team after signing Wednesday.

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