- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 7, 2002

CARLISLE, Pa. They haven't had a Pro Bowl defensive tackle in 18 years. They haven't had a pair of solid all-around performers at the position since their 1991 Super Bowl season. So Daryl Gardener practicing alongside Dan Wilkinson yesterday at Dickinson College was something for the Washington Redskins to celebrate.
That is until the projected starter whom Gardener replaced, Santana Dotson, ruptured his left Achilles' tendon during morning drills. The 32-year-old Dotson, who was signed as a free agent from Green Bay on June4, is expected to miss the season. Dotson, who was making his camp debut after being sidelined since June with a strained calf, will undergo surgery today.
While Dotson went down, Gardener suited up for the first time as a Redskin.
"Daryl looked very good," said right end Bruce Smith, who also made his 2002 training camp debut yesterday following offseason surgery on both knees. "He gives us another big body in there. We're going to make some things happen this year."
The much-hyped tandem of Wilkinson and Dana Stubblefield never really meshed and Stubblefield's replacement last year, end Kenard Lang, played well but was out of position at tackle. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound Gardener, who helped make the Dolphins' defense consistently one of the NFL's best during his six seasons in Miami, will join the 6-4, 353-pound Wilkinson to give the Redskins a load for blockers to try to deal with inside.
"We're going to be straight-up nasty," Gardener said of a line that also includes sure Hall of Famer Smith and left end Renaldo Wynn. "The linebackers [LaVar Arrington, Jeremiah Trotter and Jessie Armstead] are going to love us. Every last one of them is going to the Pro Bowl and I expect a Rolex from each and every one of them."
Gardener was cut by Miami on July19 following a dispute over his offseason conditioning habits and his proposed switch from tackle to end. He signed with Washington 11 days later after also being courted by Denver.
"It's the Dolphins' loss and the Redskins' gain," said the 29-year-old Baylor product who blasted Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt and former teammate Zach Thomas to the Miami media last week. "I was expecting to retire there, but things went sour with me and the head coach. Evidently, I was the weakest link. I'm a player. That's the coach. No matter if I'm right or wrong, I lose. People that know me know what I'm all about."
Wilkinson was thrilled to have a fellow earth-mover next to him.
"I welcome Daryl with open arms," Wilkinson said. "The biggest thing is the man is happy here and ready to go. He adds another dimension to our defense, another guy with big-play capabilities and an attitude. We're fortunate to have him."
The Redskins considered drafting Gardener in 1996, but opted to trade their top choice to St. Louis for defensive tackle Sean Gilbert. Gardener went to Miami with the 20th choice overall and became an immediate starter. Gilbert played one year in Washington, held out for all of 1997 and went to Carolina the following spring in exchange for a pair of first-round picks. Now the lifetime Redskins fan is where he said he always wanted to be.
"This is a perfect fit for me," Gardener said. "I wanted to be on the East Coast. Denver gave me a pretty nice offer that with incentives would have naturally put me there, but I shot that down and chose this situation ($775,000 salary with $1million in incentives). It's not about money. It looks like the Redskins can actually [win the Super Bowl] this year. I'm not getting any younger and I want a ring. If we're going to be putting up 40 points a game, I'll probably be having mai tais on the bench."
Gardener missed 14 games the past two seasons because of a bad back, but he said he felt no effects yesterday morning from his two back operations in the past two years.
He did sit out the afternoon session as the Redskins want him to ease into the work. But Gardener is expected to play in Saturday's stateside preseason opener at Carolina. Asked for a self-assessment, Gardener smiled and said, "That boy is bad (as in good). I always give it my all. I don't care if I'm on one leg, I'm going to hop and make the play."
Note With Gardener and Wynn replacing Lang and Marco Coleman, the Redskins have a front four of all No.1 picks for the fourth straight year. Wilkinson, Smith, Stubblefield and Coleman were the starters in 2000 with Wilkinson, Lang, Stubblefield and Coleman the quartet in 1999.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide