- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 22, 2001

Washington Redskins' quarterback Tony Banks appeared ebullient Monday night, shaking off the effects of a concussion suffered in the team's 17-10 victory Sunday to wine and dine alongside his teammates.

Center Cory Raymer, linebacker Robert Jones, kicker Brett Conway, tackle Ross Tucker and long snapper Ethan Albright joined Mr. Banks for the first local Taste of the NFL celebrity dinner and auction at the Ritz-Carlton Washington.

The players, of course, changed from their burgundy-and-gold uniforms to sophisticated evening wear for the event, which raised more than $30,000 through live and silent auctions for the DC Central Kitchen.

The team's remarkable rebirth winning four straight games after dropping its first five stands as a testament to second chances. The players' benevolence Monday will help the less fortunate earn second chances of their own.

The Redskins mingled with fans to raise funds for the organization, which provides meals, job training and support for down-on-their-luck District residents.

The evening built on the success of the national Taste of the NFL, which began in Minnesota in 1992 as a way to boost relief organizations' coffers. The dinners have raised more than $3.3 million for hunger-relief groups.

Mr. Banks, the much-traveled quarterback, received a clean bill of health earlier in the day but easily could have passed on the gala but no mere concussion was going to keep him from helping a noble cause.

"I've been looking forward to this for a long time," he said, looking dapper beside his wife, Yolanda. "All my tests cleared today, so here I am."

Then it was time for the Redskins cheerleaders to literally kick off the four-course dinner with an acrobatic dance-and-fitness routine.

Had the gala been held last month, with the team in the throes of its embarrassing funk, the atmosphere wouldn't have been quite so festive.

The team's resurrection didn't surprise the players.

Linebacker Eddie Mason said his teammates "Never lost focus" during their woeful 0-5 start.

"Given that adversity, it bonded the team," he said. "We still believed we could win."

Mr. Mason said DC Central Kitchen lent a hand to his own Faith Foundation, which will be feeding needy families Thanksgiving dinner, by helping it acquire food in time for today's feast.

He acknowledged that such groups as DC Kitchen do more than fill stomachs: They change lives.

"It's not just about food. It's about building a future," he said.

Jaleo restaurant's executive chef, Jose R. Andres, agreed.

"To feed someone is good, but it only solves half of the problem," said Mr. Andres, who serves on DC Central Kitchen's board.

Mr. Raymer spoke of his charitable responsibilities with the same zeal that he brings to his day job at FedEx Field.

"We spend countless hours doing charity work," he said of his team's commitment to the region. "It starts with Darrell." Darrell Green, an 18-year veteran, created the Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation in 1988. It helps underprivileged children become moral, productive members of society through its outreach efforts.

"I'm fortunate enough to ride those guys' coattails. It's something that needs to be done and should be done," Mr. Raymer said.


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