- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

A day after it looked as if he would miss a third straight game with an injured lower right leg, Washington Redskins rookie cornerback Fred Smoot returned to practice and was preparing to start Sunday's game against the visiting Seattle Seahawks.

"I'm playing, you can quote me on that," said the always-confident Smoot, who hadn't practiced since he was hurt Oct. 15 at Dallas. "I had to get back in the groove, moving around on it. I guess they'll see how I look after today, but I'm playing. Yesterday was the day to see if it would swell up after I worked hard on it [running on the side of the practice field]. It didn't swell up. I'm not sore."

Asked how Smoot looked, coach Marty Schottenheimer said, "Like a guy who hadn't practiced in a couple of weeks. We're encouraged that he was able to take his regular turn."

If Smoot starts, 41-year-old future Hall of Famer Darrell Green will revert to his role as nickel back.

"It was great to be starting again," said Green, a starter from 1983 to 1999. "The last couple of weeks, I kind of clicked back into my old mode. We need Fred back. I'm penciled in as the backup. It's important for me to embrace that."

Signs of things to come?

A week after fullback Bryan Johnson caught the first two passes of his career and receiver Derrius Thompson made his first career catch, Washington's young backups at the offensive skill positions continued to contribute in Sunday's 35-21 victory over the New York Giants. Thompson caught a 31-yard touchdown pass and tight end Zeron Flemister hauled in his first two catches (for 32 yards) since the 2000 season opener.

"I haven't had too many opportunities to catch the ball, so it felt good," said Flemister, who made the roster last year as an undrafted rookie from Iowa. "Once I caught it, it was like, 'What do I do now?,' but it all comes back to you like riding a bike. I don't mind blocking, but I'm a receiving-type tight end. I like to get the ball. But I understand what happened last year. We had two good veteran tight ends [Stephen Alexander and the departed James Jenkins] ahead of me. They brought Walter [Rasby, Jenkins' replacement as the blocking tight end] in this year, but they bring people in and out all the time in the NFL. You've just got to wait your turn, wait for the opportunity to present itself. With Stephen out [for a third straight game with a sprained ankle], I'm getting the balls that he normally gets in practice. Hopefully that will carry over to the game."

Thompson is even more of an unlikely hero. Signed after the 1999 draft as an undrafted free agent, the Baylor product missed most of his first training camp with injuries to his foot and ankle. After he recovered, Thompson split the season between the practice squad and the inactive list. Thompson hurt a thumb last summer but made the practice squad and wound up seeing limited action in four games. This year, he has been active each week as the fourth receiver ahead of fifth-round pick Darnerien McCants.

"I was so wide open [for his touchdown catch on a pass from receiver Kevin Lockett] and the ball was in the air so long, I had to concentrate a lot more," Thompson said. "I was surprised I made the team my first two years because I was hurt so much, but I'm always optimistic. Now that I've caught a couple of passes, I hope it's a sign of things to come."

It could be. The contracts of Alexander, starting receiver Michael Westbrook and regular fullback Donnell Bennett all expire after the season.

"We're trying to work some of those kids in there," Schottenheimer said. "All three of those guys have excellent futures. They're all very good special teams players [Flemister leads the Redskins with 12 special teams tackles]. Bryan has very good quickness and good hands. Zeron is very athletic for a tight end and he has very good speed."

Stat corner

The Redskins' 35 points last Sunday were just 14 fewer than they had scored in their first six games combined, and was their highest total in their past 15 games. Washington hasn't scored more than 35 points in 34 games (including the playoffs) dating to a 48-point outburst against the Chicago Bears on Halloween 1999. Add in the late 17-point rally against Carolina, and Washington has scored 52 points in its last 73:02 after managing just 32 in the first 349:50.

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