- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

Although Washington Redskins receiver Michael Westbrook doesn't plan to take anything approaching a long last look around over the next 10 days, the 1995 first-round pick's tenure soon may end after seven sometimes turbulent seasons.
Westbrook offers no regrets or bitterness about a promising career often sidelined by injuries or personal problems. He won't second-guess an offense that often has overlooked him although he leads the team with 52 receptions. Instead, Westbrook likely will quietly depart as an unrestricted free agent. After all, the team considered trading him earlier this season, according to NFL sources.
"Everybody knows the possibility of my not being here, but I really have to focus on these last two games," he said.
Westbrook probably will finish as the team's leading receiver for only the second time. However, the 27th-ranked offense has mostly sputtered en route to the Redskins' fewest points (196) since 1980, when the NFL lengthened each team's schedule from 14 to 16 games. He has had a handful of big games, with nine catches against Denver and seven against both Chicago and Arizona. But there also were streaks of one catch in consecutive games and six receptions over four games as Westbrook operated as more of a downfield blocker than playmaker.
Quarterback Tony Banks conceded that some of Westbrook's inactivity was the passer's fault. Banks is still learning the offense and wasn't used to throwing to taller receivers like Rod Gardner (6-foot-2) and Westbrook (6-3) who rely more on size than speed. Banks said Westbrook's 20 catches over the past four games reflect the quarterback's increased familiarity with his receiver.
"I feel a lot more comfortable with these big receivers," Banks said. "I was used to guys who get more separation. You have to have more faith [that tall receivers will catch the ball]. You can't always go with what your eyes see. I have a little more faith in Michael that I didn't have [before]."
Westbrook said Brad Johnson (1999-2000) was his favorite of eight starting quarterbacks during his Washington tenure. Westbrook set career marks in 1999 in catches (65), yards (1,191), yards per catch (18.3) and touchdowns (12) while playing 16 games for the only time.
"I don't know if Brad threw to me regularly, but he wanted to throw me the ball downfield," Westbrook said.

Pay the man
Defensive tackle Kenard Lang said playing well over the last two games could make a big difference in his new contract. The 1997 first-rounder will be an unrestricted free agent after the season but wants to return.
"It's the difference between backing up a dump truck and backing up a little Tonka [toy] truck," Lang said. "These last two games are critical because these are what a lot of teams and the Redskins will look at. I want to stay with the Redskins, so I have to give them a reason why to keep me. I've been doing OK this season, so I want to have a couple more good games and hopefully they'll keep me."

Extra points
The Redskins will decide today whether to replace guard Ben Coleman with Matt Campbell. Coleman hasn't practiced this week because of sore knees that bothered him earlier this season.
Linebacker LaVar Arrington (sprained knee) is probable for Sunday night's game in New Orleans despite not practicing yesterday. Running back Stephen Davis (sprained knee) returned to practice. …
Cornerback Fred Smoot refuses to believe the Redskins are eliminated from the playoffs.
"It's slim-to-none chances on the playoffs, but I'm not going to give up," he said. "[The Saints] are thinking we don't have anything to play for. But, really, we have everything to play for pride."

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