- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier gave special teams assistant Mike Stock a vote of confidence yesterday after an ugly performance by the unit in a 26-10 victory over the Houston Texans at FedEx Field.
The Redskins allowed a blocked punt that was recovered in the end zone for a Texans touchdown, missed two of three field-goal attempts and gained just 3 yards on three punt returns.
Spurrier denied speculation around Redskin Park that Stock is in danger of being fired after Sunday's season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Stock, a 13-year NFL veteran, was one of just two coaches Spurrier retained from the staff of predecessor Marty Schottenheimer
"Mike's an excellent special teams guy," Spurrier said. "He's got a good track record. He's very thorough."
Stock deflected questions about his job security, quickly moving on to lament the poor punting and the "miscommunication" on the punt protection. Stock, who noted that the special teams did record a safety and forced a turnover on kickoff coverage, said he had no explanation for the miserable performance of rookie punter Craig Jarrett.
Jarrett was solid in his first two games after replacing injured Bryan Barker. Yesterday, however, he had one punt blocked by Jimmy McClain for a touchdown (recovered in the end zone by Kevin Williams with 9:34 remaining) and averaged just 30 yards on his other six punts. Two kicks traveled just 10 yards apiece.
The Redskins' net average on his seven punts was a horrendous 20.4 yards.
"After shanking two and having the next one blocked, it went from bad to worse," Jarrett said. "I missed the ball twice, but I haven't lost any confidence. It's no big deal. I'll bounce back next week."
Maybe not. Stock wasn't sure that Jarrett would be the punter for the season finale against the Cowboys on Sunday at FedEx Field. And Spurrier was very disappointed in that aspect of his team's afternoon.
"Craig got to where he couldn't even hardly catch it and drop it," Spurrier said. "And he was punting so well in practice this week. We thought, 'we've got our punting woes taken care of.' But obviously we don't."
Jose Cortez, Washington's third kicker of the season, was wide right on field goal attempts of 46 and 48 yards. He made a 23-yarder with 2:55 to play, giving him three misses in six attempts in three games with the Redskins.
"That was bad," said Cortez, who was 36 of 49 in two years with the San Francisco 49ers before being cut last month. "I had the distance, but I kept pulling the ball to the right. I'm not worried. It's like it was my second game. It's my second season."
Rookie Bruce Branch was supposed to be the answer to the Redskins' punt return failures Jacquez Green averaged only 5.3 yards before being cut and Champ Bailey muffed three catches.
However, Branch, who was promoted from the practice squad to replace Bailey this week, managed just 3 yards on two punt returns and 29 yards on two kickoff returns before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. Bailey brought back the final punt 11 yards, but the return was negated by a holding penalty on Walter Rasby.
Ladairis Jackson was responsible for the Redskins' first safety in more than two years when he was held by Houston's Billy Miller in the end zone on Chad Stanley's punt 1:39 into the second quarter.
However, Jackson's season came to a painful end with 3:06 left in the third quarter when he ruptured the patella tendon in his left leg. Jackson, who spent 2001 on the Seattle Seahawks' practice squad, is seen as a possible starter for the future, especially if the Redskins opt not to bring defensive end Bruce Smith back for a 19th season.
Jackson is expected to be recovered from the injury in time for the start of training camp next July.
And rookie Ricot Joseph knocked the ball away from Houston kickoff return man Avion Black in the fourth quarter and Eddie Mason recovered the fumble for a unit that came in ranked 27th. Washington also was ranked 29th in punt coverage, 24th in kickoff return average and 15th in punt return average.
Another sack mark
Bruce Smith picked up two sacks to move within four of the NFL's all-time record, and fittingly his sacks made Houston's David Carr tie and then break the record for most-sacked quarterback in league history.
Carr, the top overall pick in last spring's draft, now has been sacked 73 times this season, one more than Randall Cunningham in 1986.
Smith, meanwhile, has 194 career sacks, just shy of Reggie White's 198. Smith has three multi-sack games and eight sacks this season, as well as five in the past four games.
"I'm really excited for him," linebacker LaVar Arrington said. "I didn't know how it was going to turn out, with him starting kind of slow with the sacks. He's really picked it up. I just hope he can get it. Four sacks is a pretty tall order for one game, but anything's possible."
Smith's pursuit of the record will be jeopardized this offseason when the Redskins look to upgrade the right defensive end position. He appears eager to play another year, especially if it's in Washington, but the Redskins are hoping to get more strength and speed at his spot. He could return as a role player, but the club will go with a younger player if it projects the production to be about equal.
"I'm not going to talk about the future," Smith said. "My focus is the Dallas Cowboys [on Sunday]."
Ironically, Smith predicted how the sacks would come in an interview Friday. That day he downplayed his pursuit of the record and said the Redskins had to do all the other things right in the game like stop the run, control the ball on offense and put the Texans in a situation where they had to pass.
Yesterday, after Washington did just that, he smiled when reminded of his statement.
"That's exactly what I told you," Smith said. "I've been around long enough and I study this way. You have to be a student of the game. That's the way it works. It's just like playing chess. You're trying to place yourself strategically in a position to capitalize and to take advantage of your opponent. That's what we were able to do today."
First win
Rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey got his first win as the Redskins' starter despite an uneven performance.
Ramsey, who improved to 1-3 as a starter, completed less than 44 percent of his passes and threw for just 190 yards. But he did have two touchdown throws, no interceptions and no sacks, and he impressed with the way he orchestrated the game.
Overall, the afternoon seemed to be another promising sign of Ramsey's potential in 2003.
"Patrick played well," coach Steve Spurrier said. "He did some good things in there. He avoided some bad plays. And again, the few mistakes he made here and there, hopefully he can learn from them and go from there. But he threw a lot of good passes and played well."
Earlier this season Ramsey won his debut in relief of Danny Wuerffel, Oct.6 at Tennessee, but lost while starting the next two games and was benched. Since returning to the lineup, he has six touchdown passes, no interceptions and just three sacks.
Green to start finale
Cornerback Darrell Green didn't play much in his penultimate game of his record 20th Redskins season, but coach Steve Spurrier said that he'll start the retiring Hall of Fame lock in Sunday's season finale against Dallas.
Green, who hasn't played much on defense since bruising his right hip Nov.24 against St. Louis, is pleased to be going out a starter but wishes it wasn't a token gesture. But Green, who has been replaced as the nickel corner by rookie Rashad Bauman, said he won't beg for more playing time in his 313th and final game.
"I wish I could have played more," Green said. "That has kind of gotten to me a little bit as my plane has started to land. You have to try to adjust. I know I can still play."
Green did appreciate the cheers from the crowd when he tackled the Texans' Avion Black on a kickoff return in the first quarter and when he took over at cornerback when Champ Bailey was briefly sidelined in the fourth quarter.
"Sometimes I'm in such a daze that I don't hear things, but I think my hearing is getting better because I heard all of that," said the 42-year-old Green. "This is a time of celebration for me."
The Redskins will honor Green before the game with the Cowboys and have asked fans to bring banners celebrating his career. One yesterday read "Darrell Green for Senate Majority Leader."
Only in Washington.
The first time
Rookie backup fullback Rock Cartwright put Washington ahead to stay, 7-3, with his first touchdown, a 12-yard catch on which he got behind linebacker Jay Foreman and tumbled into the end zone untouched with 3:29 remaining in the first quarter.
Recovered
Defensive tackles Daryl Gardener and Carl Powell, center Larry Moore and fullback Bryan Johnson all started after missing practice time last week because of a stomach virus. Moore and Johnson were so ill that they were hospitalized.
Next year
Washington's victory coupled with Minnesota's upset of Miami on Saturday means that the Redskins will travel to Chicago or Detroit, not Minnesota, next year. If the Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, they'll finish third in the NFC East and visit the NFC North's third-place team. If they lose, they'll finish last and visit the NFC North's last-place team. The Bears (4-11) currently lead the Lions (3-12) by a game. Washington's other non-division road games are at Atlanta, Buffalo, Carolina and Miami.
New England, New Orleans, the New York Jets and Tampa Bay are the non-NFC East foes coming to Landover. If Washington loses to Dallas, Arizona will be coming here again next season. If Washington wins, the NFC West's third-place team (St. Louis or Seattle) will be on the home schedule.
Ring of Fame
Former Prince George's County executive Wayne Curry and ex-linebacker Ken Harvey were inducted into the Redskins' Ring of Fame at halftime.
Curry, who helped persuade late Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke to build the stadium in Landover in 1997, left office this month after serving two terms as county executive.
Harvey, Washington's first free agent signee of the Norv Turner era in 1994, recorded 13 sacks that season to become the only Redskin to lead the NFC. That was also a record number of sacks by a Washington linebacker. Harvey, who also tied a team mark with four sacks in a 1997 game against the New York Giants, wound up with 41 sacks during his five seasons in Washington, four of which he finished with a Pro Bowl selection.
Lesson learned?
Coach Steve Spurrier has been asked myriad times about what he has learned in the NFL, and almost invariably he has dodged the question. But in yesterday's news conference, he seemed to make a surprisingly candid response.
"I get asked that a lot," Spurrier said. "I think the best answer I can say is, I'm not as good a coach as I used to be. You can interpret that any way you want to. Because my record's not very good. When your record's not very good, you're not doing real well as a coach. Simple as that. So I'm going to try to be a better coach next week and next year."
Special guest
Former President George H.W. Bush sat with Texans owner Bob McNair and general manager Charley Casserly in the visiting owner's box. Bush, who traveled down from Camp David, where he's spending the holidays with his son and current President George W. Bush, has attended all of the Texans' home games in McNair's box at Reliant Stadium.
Steve Spurrier said it was "neat" to meet the former president.
Inactive
Running back Stephen Davis (shoulder), tight end Leonard Stephens, guard Brenden Stai, receiver Justin Skaggs, defensive end Greg Scott, linebacker Orantes Grant and defensive back Todd Franz were inactive. Danny Wuerffel (shoulder) was the emergency quarterback.
David Elfin, Jody Foldesy

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