- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001

Washington Redskins rookie Fred Smoot appears to have adjusted to the steep learning curve between college and the NFL and has positioned himself to start across from Champ Bailey in the Sept. 9 opener at San Diego.

Smoot, a second-round pick out of Mississippi State, seems to have won the job over veteran Darrell Green, who is expected to announce later this week that he is retiring at the end of the season. Smoot made his first start Thursday at New England.

"I thought he did quite well, except that he missed one phase of the kicking game," coach Marty Schottenheimer said yesterday.

"[I made] a couple of mental mistakes, basically communication mistakes with me and the safety," said Smoot, who broke up a first-quarter pass to Patriots receiver David Patten. "But basically I did pretty good."

Smoot's place in the starting lineup was one of several decisions hinted at yesterday as the Redskins also made final preparations to cut the roster from 67 to 53 players. Among those expected to be released today are a pair of 2000 draft picks: guard Mookie Moore (fourth round) and quarterback Todd Husak (sixth).

Schottenheimer wouldn't confirm any positional victories because he wants to speak individually to the players involved. The coach said he would reveal starters Tuesday, when the team, which has off today and tomorrow, begins preparing in earnest for the Chargers.

Another rookie starter should be David Brandt at right guard. The undrafted center out of Michigan made his first start Thursday and, according to Schottenheimer, made only one bad play. Brandt was the Redskins' third starter at right guard in the preseason, following Moore and Derrick Fletcher.

"[Brandt] was pretty impressive," Schottenheimer said. "To be honest, I was surprised he played the way he did."

Also, veteran Dave Szott appears to have won the starting left guard spot over Matt Campbell. The latter was at somewhat of a disadvantage because he recently filled in for injured left tackle Chris Samuels.

Husak, meanwhile, tried to stay upbeat after what was likely his final Redskins practice. The beginning of the end for him came after the Aug. 12 loss at Kansas City when the club began pursuing free agent quarterbacks in earnest. Veteran Tony Banks was signed Aug. 16, and Husak was bothered by a strained rib muscle in the second preseason game. He did not play in either the third or fourth exhibition.

"It would have been nice to get a chance to fight for my position, but I don't think that's happened," said Husak, who finished the preseason 7-for-16 for 59 yards and two interceptions. "It's been a rough couple of weeks for me. Not knowing and not having any control has been tough.

"My mom talked to me the other day and said she hasn't slept in about two weeks," he added with a grimace. "I don't have any regrets about my time here, if it is up. I hope I'm around. I want to be around and help the team win. I think I've shown that. We'll see tomorrow."

Moore, who couldn't secure the starting right guard role after a promising offseason, also tried to remain positive.

"I was just like any player out there," Moore said. "I had some mess-ups, some good plays, some great plays. I feel I would have done well at right guard, but that's what I think. I don't know what the coaches think."

Looking more secure was undrafted rookie Ifeanyi Ohalete, a safety out of Southern California who impressed on special teams Thursday. He lost a chance to start at free safety early in training camp, but he finished with "an outstanding performance" that Schottenheimer said "increased his stock."

"It's a waiting process now," Ohalete said. "The football's all done. It's going to be difficult if I don't make it, but I think I've got a good shot."

Others, such as safety Josh Symonette and linebacker Donny Green, hoped to eke out a roster spot because of their promise on special teams. Some position-oriented spots also were being settled, such as the backup defensive tackles (among Delbert Cowsette, Jerry DeLoach and Mario Monds) and the fourth and fifth receivers (among Darnerian McCants, Derrius Thompson and Justin Skaggs).

At practice, all three starters who sat out Thursday Samuels (back), defensive end Bruce Smith (shoulder) and cornerback Champ Bailey (foot) participated in the non-contact session. Each appears probable. Smith still has yet to take a hit on his bruised shoulder, but he is confident he will withstand that test Tuesday.

"I'm kind of looking forward to that," Smith said. "I'm strong. The swelling's gone. My arm feels good, but the true test is taking a hit on it."

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