Thursday, November 15, 2001

Fairways and field goals aren’t steady companions, but lessons learned on the links have helped Washington Redskins kicker Brett Conway enjoy a near-perfect season.
Conway has converted 11 of 13 field goals and all 10 extra points as the Redskins get ready for the Denver Broncos Sunday. His kickoffs also are a little longer this season. Concentrating on the sweet spot rather than overpowering the ball has increased Conway’s control.
“A lot of golfers are better when they’re older and more patient,” he said. “They relax a lot more. They’re not trying to kill it and overswing and make better contact. I don’t make as many mistakes. I hit the ball cleaner.”
If the Redskins had been more patient with Conway’s strained thigh muscle last year, a team expected to contend for the Super Bowl might not have finished 8-8. Conway made his first three kicks in two games before being injured, placed on injured reserve and then waived. He needed three weeks to return and later played for the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets. But the Redskins, unwilling to wait, subsequently signed four other kickers who combined to lose three games.
“I would have loved to have stayed,” Conway said. “A lot of teams are more patient. They don’t mess up any chemistry or have some superstitions or some loyalty.”
Conway re-signed with the Redskins March 15 when coach Marty Schottenheimer was looking for a veteran.
Conway kicked a career-best 55-yarder against the New York Giants Oct. 7, tying a game the Redskins ultimately lost 23-9. He missed a late 32-yarder that forced overtime against Carolina before ending the team’s 0-5 start with a 22-yarder.
The Redskins also lead the NFL in kickoff coverage (17.5 yards) as Conway has learned to better angle kicks or reach the end zone. This could be important against Broncos returner Chris Cole whose 26.4-yard average is the AFC’s third best.
Conway could angle for a corner and risk giving the Broncos possession at the 40-yard line should the ball go out of bounds. However, a strong coverage group provides the confidence to challenge the returner with a straight-ahead kick.
Schottenheimer said his only concern is Conway’s tendency to kick an occasional line drive instead of floating the ball higher to let coverage get closer. However, Conway expects to gain at least five more yards because of Invesco Stadium’s thin air.

Health watch
Linebacker LaVar Arrington practiced in half of the drills yesterday, but is still questionable with a high ankle sprain. “He moved around reasonably well, but it’s a controlled environment,” Schottenheimer said. “He’s 50-50, but on the high side of 50-50.”
Tight end Stephen Alexander will practice today after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. Schottenheimer also rated Alexander 50-50 to play.

Extra points
The offensive line ran sprints after 10 snaps the past two days. Guard Dave Szott said “the Mile High Rule” from his Kansas City years created the added conditioning to compensate for Denver’s high elevation.
“If you put a little extra effort into it, then [the thin air] is not an issue,” Szott said. …
Denver coach Mike Shanahan denied reported trade talks for Redskins receiver Michael Westbrook last month.

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