- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 3, 2002

OSAKA, Japan The Washington Redskins' patchwork offensive line makes its debut tonight with its Pro Bowl left tackle ill and a still-uncertain starting five.

Tackle Chris Samuels missed practice yesterday morning (Thursday evening EDT) because he was throwing up the previous night and that morning. He was feeling better late in the day, teammates said, then practiced this morning (Friday evening EDT), but it remained unclear whether he would play against the San Francisco 49ers.

The potential absence left line coach Kim Helton eyeing a variety of starting units. Practice opened with Rod Jones in Samuels' spot and Ross Tucker and Kipp Vickers at the left and right guards, respectively. Later Alex Sulfsted moved to left tackle, with Jones and Tucker on the left and right interior.

Ultimately sixth-round draft pick Reggie Coleman might see the most time in Samuels' place because Jones and Sulfsted are competing to start at guard. But Helton was hesitant to start Coleman in the rookie's first professional game.

"I'm sure he'd be fine, but I'd like to let him watch a series before he goes out there," Helton said.

It is possible that Samuels might play, but the Redskins don't want to take a risk for a preseason game.

"He doesn't have anything to prove," Helton said. "If he can play, he'll play. It certainly would help us if he could play. But if he doesn't, normally when something like that happens you get a pleasant surprise and some guy plays well."

Vickers will be limited by a sore knee that kept him out of a few training camp practices this week in Carlisle, Pa. The veteran plays right guard, and the club wants to see Tucker, a 2001 undrafted rookie, at that spot.

The Redskins likely will add a guard in free agency when other teams make cuts. But the quality of such a player is uncertain, meaning the current guards are under high scrutiny. Despite mixed results so far, Helton is confident his pupils will perform.

"I'm expecting them to play well," he said. "They haven't played poorly in scrimmage. What happened was, you get out there in one-on-one drills and they're struggling. But when we scrimmaged [last weekend], I think they did a nice job of getting the quarterback protected and running the ball."

Two big shots

Defensive tackle Donovan Arp and wide receiver Justin Skaggs didn't see any playing time last season but will have chances to show how far they've come since.

Arp, 24, will start while the Redskins wait for newly signed Daryl Gardener to join the club. Skaggs, 23, will be the No.1 kick returner and probably see a few passes on offense.

"I'm in the position where I can really help myself if I have a couple strong preseason games," Arp said. "I guess they've already filled the position with Daryl Gardener, but I can at least get in the rotation a little bit. It's a big opportunity."

Said Skaggs: "You've got to start separating yourself. In the game is where you do it."

Arp has added 10 pounds since being picked off the Tennessee Titans' practice squad last October and now weighs 285; his target size is 295 to 300. He is focusing on his technique, knowing a player of his size needs precision to keep from getting pushed around. But he concedes he's "probably not ready to assume a starting role."

"Just being honest with myself, looking at it from a coach's point of view, there are some things I need to work on," Arp said. "As far as I'm concerned, I'm still fighting every day to make this team."

Skaggs said he has improved dramatically since camp began 1½ weeks ago.

"Before camp started, I didn't know a thing about looking at the field, watching the quarterback, relaxing in my routes," Skaggs said. "Granted, I have a lot more to learn, but that's probably where I've grown the most."

Amaya sticking?

In an afternoon news conference, San Francisco coach Steve Mariucci appealed to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to let his Japanese exemption, linebacker Masafumi Kawaguchi, remain with the club for the rest of camp. Redskins coach Steve Spurrier echoed Mariucci's words with regard to wide receiver Akihito Amaya.

Tagliabue later said he expected that the exemptions would be extended, so long as insurance issues could be worked out. The league probably also would have to add a provision that says the players would not count against the salary cap if injured. Amaya, of course, would remain an extremely long shot to make the team.

Tagliabue addressed several other issues, including why the American Bowl is being played for the first time in Osaka (it has Japan's highest concentration of college football programs), how Washington's bid for the Super Bowl is progressing (the area and New York will make feasibility presentations at the league meetings in October) and whether the NFL ever would open its season outside the country (unlikely even in "unique" circumstances, such as a club being displaced from its home stadium and therefore not really missing a home game).

Injury update

Linebacker LaVar Arrington had problems in practice with his shoes, which pinched his toes so painfully that he threw them in anger late in the session. It was his first time wearing the shoes because the Redskins do not practice on AstroTurf. He expected to be fine to play.

Kicker Brett Conway will be ready as much as necessary despite a reduced regimen in the early going of camp. Conway was sidelined early by an illness and has been working back slowly since, mostly because he has strained his leg in previous camps.

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