- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Washington Redskins safety David Terrell is defying expectations for now, remaining a strong candidate to start at free safety a week after the club signed veteran Keith Lyle.
It was widely assumed that Washington's experiment with Terrell, a second-year player, would be abandoned when the club acquired Lyle, a seven-year NFL starter with the St. Louis Rams. After all, Terrell made several mistakes in the first two preseason games and Lyle was waiting for such a call from the Redskins.
But team sources say the move was made because the Cleveland Browns showed interest in Lyle, not because of Terrell's performance. In addition, the club sought to gain experience at safety in case Terrell did not pan out.
For now, Terrell remains the starter for tomorrow's preseason finale at New England. And if he continues to show improvement, he could start the Sept. 9 opener at San Diego over Lyle, who has absorbed the playbook rapidly and should play about a half tomorrow.
"The coaches came to me and told me [Lyle's signing is] nothing I'm doing wrong," Terrell said yesterday. "It's just that we don't have enough experience at that position, whether it's with me or the guys behind me. They told me to go about business as usual, and that made me feel a lot more comfortable."
Terrell saw no reason to doubt the word of his boss. And coach Marty Schottenheimer said Terrell has shrugged off Lyle's signing and continued to improve.
"I would have to say that he's not affected at all [by Lyle's signing]," Schottenheimer said. "He continues to work. It's fun to watch him because he's making very, very good progress."
The club still believes Terrell, 26, has tremendous potential. He is athletic enough to play cornerback, which he did last season, but he also has a safety's ability to play in space, demonstrated by his sharp work on special teams.
Schottenheimer also is impressed by Terrell's ability to avoid repeating mistakes. In last week's win over Cleveland, Terrell bit badly on a play-action fake and allowed a receiver to get wide-open behind him (he was saved when the pass was overthrown). If Terrell's reputation stands, that error will not be duplicated.
"That's one thing I've been big on," Terrell said. "That was some good advice that [cornerback] Darrell Green gave me when I first came in: 'Learn from your mistakes and don't go out there and repeat them.' You can't do that in this league. I still hold it true to everything I do now."
But Lyle, 29, has strong credentials of his own. He started 89 NFL games from 1994 to 2000, earning honors like being a first alternate to the 1999 Pro Bowl. In fact, sources say Lyle's experience makes the Redskins think he might be a better option than Terrell in the short-term.
"When you're a younger guy and you're in this position, everything happens so fast," Lyle said. "I think because I've played so long and played in big games and all that, I don't get out there and get all excited. I'm calm. I know what I'm doing. I just have to feel out my players and communicate to them."
A District native who attended George C. Marshall High School and the University of Virginia, Lyle thinks his long wait for a job this offseason is incentive for a standout season.
"Being released just made me hungry sometimes you need that to get your career going," said Lyle, who played for the Rams in Los Angeles and then St. Louis before being cut and replaced by former Baltimore Raven Kim Herring on March 22.
Another battle is raging in the Redskins' secondary between rookie cornerback Fred Smoot and veteran Darrell Green for the right to start opposite Pro Bowler Champ Bailey. Although the Redskins would have little experience in their defensive backfield if Terrell and Smoot win their respective competitions, Terrell has confidence that he can defy expectations in that scenario, too.
"Once that point comes that we're the starters, I think the coaches will feel we can get the job done and they won't even worry about that stuff anymore," Terrell said. "I think they're more [concerned] with guys' performance."


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