- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier can't return to Florida without some rivalry talk.
Washington tonight visits Tampa Bay, where Spurrier was courted to take over the Buccaneers before joining the Redskins. Spurrier also was the Bucs' starting quarterback during their 0-14 inaugural season and coached the USFL's Tampa Bay Bandits for three seasons.
It's not quite the homecoming Spurrier will experience during the regular season when Washington plays at Jacksonville, which is closer to the University of Florida campus. However, even Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay said 150,000 tickets could have been sold for the return of "the Muhammad Ali of football."
"There's a little bit on the line with all of us who lived in Florida for so long," Spurrier said. "I was reminiscing about walking across [the street] to the ballgames when we coached the Bandits and seeing the fans in the parking lot, and sometimes they would give us a cold drink after the game on the way across the street at night. I'm looking forward to the game and seeing a lot of old pals down there."
Redskins quarterback Shane Matthews, who also played at Florida, said the pressure may be on the Bucs, with spectators probably split between the teams.
"It's probably going to be the biggest game of the year for Tampa," he said. "There will be a lot of Redskins people here, but there will be a lot of Florida State people rooting against the Redskins. You'll be surprised how many people are rooting for us."
Spurrier even joked that losing a preseason game might be best for the Redskins (3-0). Washington has won two straight late thrillers with reserves on the field. Although the starting offense has scored only three points during the preseason. the presence of the NFL's No.1 overall offense and passing game has heightened postseason expectations among Redskins fans after only one playoff appearance in nine years.
"Some people say you shouldn't win them all. It's obvious you don't want to lose them all," he said. "I would think you'd want to win more than you lose, but I'm not sure winning them all is beneficial. If we don't [win tonight], we'll be disappointed, but it may be good for us."
This is the last chance for players to make an impression before the first 15 roster cuts Tuesday, followed by another 15 Sept.1. The Redskins are still evaluating potential starters at quarterback and left guard, along with several backups. Spurrier said he's still open-minded about players on the bubble.
"Things change every day," he said. "One player makes a play here and there."
Quarterback Danny Wuerffel appears the front-runner over Matthews, based on his start against Tampa Bay tonight. Matthews will play the second half, with rookie Patrick Ramsey possibly seeing action.
Wuerffel was only two of five against Pittsburgh's starters and failed to produce a score during the first half. However, his receivers dropped two passes, and a 19-yard gain was negated by a penalty. Wuerffel needs a fair outing against a strong Bucs defense to clinch the job after posting a 117.4 quarterback rating, fourth best among NFC passers. Matthews also has been steady with an 86.5 mark.
The Redskins also will also for a better running game. The trade for guard Brenden Stai, who will not play tonight, should reshuffle the offensive line against New England for Thursday's game. Stai will start at right guard, sending Ross Tucker to the left side.
Injured left tackle Chris Samuels could return against New England, meaning Washington might only get one game with its starting line to together before facing Arizona in the season opener Sept.8.
Washington also is missing defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (back) and cornerback Darrell Green (neck). Gardener misses his second straight game with back problems, but Carl Powell has impressed coaches in relief. Rookie Rashad Bauman replaces Green in the nickel defense.

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