- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2001

CARLISLE, Pa. The Washington Redskins could be facing another long night Friday because of three key injured players on offense: left tackle Chris Samuels (rib), quarterback Jeff George (shoulder) and running back Stephen Davis (toes).
All three sat out practice yesterday as the club prepared for their absences in Friday's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Also sitting out practice but likely to play was wide receiver Michael Westbrook, who rested a strained lower abdominal muscle.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer said it was too early to gauge who might play Friday, but he has made clear that he won't risk exacerbating injuries to proven players in meaningless exhibitions.
The biggest concern might be Samuels, who strained a rib muscle in last week's 27-6 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Matt Campbell, a regular starter at left guard, practiced at Samuels' spot while undrafted rookie David Brandt, who played center at Michigan, filled in for Campbell.
"Right now I know I'm not ready," said Samuels, who also is monitoring an ankle sprain. "[My rib is] definitely a concern. If I rush back out I definitely could pull it again."
George, who has missed most of training camp with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, is prepared to return to some team drills today. But he has yet to throw with anything resembling his usual velocity, and Schottenheimer acknowledged that fourth-round draft pick Sage Rosenfels could start Friday.
"What we want to do is increase [George's] workload each day," Schottenheimer said. "I'm not certain that he'll play this week."
Davis said he would try to practice today and that he has no concern about playing Friday. But his status will be determined by how much his sprained toes improve over the next few days.
Meanwhile, kicker Brett Conway acknowledged that he has cut back on his preseason regimen because he is afraid of re-injuring his leg. Last season Conway strained his quadriceps in the preseason and just a few weeks later was placed on injured reserve in essence, cut.
"I've had so much trouble with my leg in the past," Conway said. "And I can't kick 30 or 40 balls [a day] like I did in college. My leg's not going to hold up. [So] if I'm making all my kicks [in practice], which I have been, or the majority of them … I just need to tune it up a little bit for games."
Conway said the decision has been his, adding that he hopes to streamline his routine even more as most kickers do when the season starts. However, he isn't totally confident that his limited preseason work will translate into peak regular-season performance.
"I've just got to convince myself of that," Conway said. "I'm still a little pessimistic about it. But [my ability is] there. I come out here and there's days I don't miss. And I'm kicking 18 or maybe 20 balls and I'm not missing. I don't need to kick any more than that if I'm not missing."

Battle heats up

Two positional battles are hot after getting virtually no attention. They involve centers Cory Raymer and Mark Fischer, and fullbacks Donnell Bennett and Bryan Johnson.
Raymer missed all last season when he blew out his knee and Fischer filled in adequately. The perception has been that Raymer returned to a starting job, but Schottenheimer said "there is a very, very competitive situation" and that he hasn't decided who will start Friday.
"I think [Fischer has] had the best performance of any offensive lineman we have in these preseason games," Schottenheimer said.
Conventional wisdom also held that Bennett, an eighth-year veteran, would start ahead of Johnson, an undrafted rookie in 2000 who didn't even play fullback at Boise State. But Schottenheimer is impressed with a variety of Johnson's physical and character attributes.

Hot topic: Vanover

Schottenheimer was questioned at length about former Kansas City Chiefs receiver/returner Tamarick Vanover, who is likely to visit the Redskins after being cleared by the league to return without a suspension.
Vanover, 27, pled guilty to aiding and abetting the sale of a stolen vehicle, served two months in federal prison and two in home detention, and paid a $10,000 fine and restitution to an insurance company. He also admitted to financing cocaine and marijuana traffic but escaped charges on those counts by cooperating with federal investigators.
Schottenheimer acknowledged that he doesn't have much need for a receiver or returner but nonetheless has promised to meet with Vanover. The coach said that the potential reaction of teammates and the public will factor into any decision.
"Those are all things that you've got to evaluate," Schottenheimer said. "I know him very well. We have people on this coaching staff who know him very well. What we'll do is make a determination, as has the National Football League, as to what we view is in the organization's best interests."
The coach stressed that his intentions thus far are to meet with Vanover nothing more.
"Throughout this whole thing what I have indicated to Tamarick is that I would have him come in for a visit," Schottenheimer said. "I think that's what I've indicated to everybody here. [This is a] young man who I drafted, who I know very well, and I know his family, and I've told him that I would bring him in for a visit, and that's all I've told him."

Extra points

The morning practice stretched to about two hours because Schottenheimer added an extra period for place-kicking protection. He said he will continue to devote extra time to the unit, which surrendered a blocked field goal and extra point last week against Atlanta.
The coach added that he will stop experimenting with personnel on the place-kicking protection, punt protection and punt coverage units. Only players expected to man the units during the regular season will play on them in the final two preseason games… .
Backup quarterback Tony Banks will get a limited playbook for Friday's game, based on the plays he runs in practice this week… . Starters will go about a half Friday… . Undrafted rookie guard Jason Schwab was released to make room for veteran guard Dave Szott.


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