- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

Cornerback Champ Bailey will be the Washington Redskins' top punt returner in Saturday's preseason game at Tampa Bay despite a finger injury that left him unable to perform the role the past two exhibitions.
Bailey, a two-time Pro Bowl player, is getting his best chance to work outside the defense after years of begging coaches. Although he has seen some time on offense and returns in previous seasons, the club now considers Bailey the top option on punts with Jacquez Green in danger of not making the 53-man roster among a competitive group of wide receivers.
"Obviously we know what Champ Bailey is with the ball in his hands," special teams coach Mike Stock said yesterday. "He's done it at Georgia and he's done it here with some reverses. If he's the primary guy, and he's comfortable catching the ball and making those decisions, then he can be a heck of a weapon for us."
Bailey thus far has one fair catch as a punt returner this preseason, missing the second game with a dislocated pinky and not feeling healthy enough to return punts in Sunday's 35-34 win over Pittsburgh.
For that reason and a paucity of chances for solid returns, the team has been unable to do much evaluation at the spot. The Redskins have an 8.8-yard average on five punt returns with seven fair catches. Green's lone return, a 17-yarder less than three minutes into the opener, remains the best effort.
On kickoff returns the situation is even more uncertain, because each of the contenders rookie running backs Robert Gillespie and Ladell Betts, second-year running back Kenny Watson and wide receiver Reidel Anthony either are on the roster bubble and/or have uncertain return potential.
Anthony fielded kickoffs with the first-string unit in yesterday's practice but Stock doesn't consider anyone to be leading the battle.
"I can't [think that way]," Stock said. "I've got to find out who's going to make the team first. We'll know a little more after this ballgame because we've got to [cut from 79 to 65 non-NFL Europe players on Tuesday]. When the dust settles, I'll find out who's left."
Tuthill claimed
The Redskins picked up some insurance in case kicker Brett Conway's injury lingers, claiming James Tuthill off waivers from Houston.
Conway suffered a hip flexor last week, did not play against Pittsburgh and has been ruled out at Tampa Bay. He was on the field yesterday stretching and doing light jogging, and he expects to be ready for the Sept. 8 opener against Arizona.
"As long as they're patient and don't push me, we'll be fine," Conway said. "The last thing we need is a repeat of what happened two years ago."
Conway was referring to the 2000 season, when he tweaked a quadriceps muscle and the Redskins, impatient with his healing, placed him on injured reserve. He healed later in the year and kicked for Oakland and the New York Jets while Washington shuffled through four other kickers. Conway re-signed last season under Marty Schottenheimer.
Tuthill, 26, is a big-bodied (6-foot-2, 250 pounds) kicker who has bounced through San Francisco, Green Bay and Houston since being an undrafted rookie out of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in 2000. Club officials said claiming Tuthill, who has not played in a regular-season game, is not a threat to Conway.
"[Conway is] a very accurate kicker, a very strong-legged guy, and it's a matter of us not knowing whether he's going to be healthy enough to start the season," Stock said. "There's been a history with this, of course, not necessarily with this particular muscle, but we're running out of time here."
Fierce Flowers
Pittsburgh safety Lee Flowers continued a war of words with Redskins coach Steve Spurrier started late Sunday when Flowers scoffed at Spurrier's famous offense.
The Steelers' starting defense held Washington scoreless, exiting with a 14-0 lead late in the second quarter. The Redskins didn't score until the third quarter, by which point they trailed 24-0 and both teams were playing reserves.
"Me, personally speaking, I think it's going to be a long season for them offensively," Flowers said in a story published in today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I'm not saying anything that 70,000 people didn't see, I'm not saying anything that everybody in Pittsburgh TV didn't see or Washington TV didn't see. The facts are what they are. When the first group was in and both guys were going at it, it was three plays and out every time."
Extra points
Defensive tackle Del Cowsette will find out tomorrow whether he will be fined for a late hit on Pittsburgh quarterback Charlie Batch. The second-quarter play cut Batch's chin, knocking him from the game shortly after Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington sidelined starter Kordell Stewart with a mild concussion.
Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener and cornerback Darrell Green are making strides with their respective back and neck injuries. Both remain out for Tampa Bay.
The Redskins have the top-ranked offense and passing offense in the NFL this preseason and the last-ranked rushing offense. Washington's 392.6 passing yards per game is more than 100 yards higher than second-ranked Cleveland (283.5). The Redskins also are No.1 in scoring (36.7 points). Washington's defense is tied for 12th, giving up an average of 293 yards.
Spurrier said the starters would play about a half again this weekend. Rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who held out 16 days, still might get into the game. However, Spurrier said, "He doesn't know all the plays yet, so he's really not quite ready."
Redskins salary-cap expert Mark Levin is leaving the club to return to the NFL Players Association. The club has not decided exactly how it will fill Levin's spot, and is considering placing emphasis on other areas of administration. Because the club has completed all its major contract negotiations (except extensions for players like Jon Jansen and Stephen Davis), there will not be a rush to hire or promote someone.
The Redskins are continuing, perhaps indefinitely, their policy of allowing spectators to watch away games on televisions on the club level at FedEx Field. Admission and parking remain free, but fans must register in advance at the team's Web site, www.redskins.com, or by calling 301/276-6910.

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