- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Special teams were scrambled and reserves readied yesterday as the Washington Redskins will use the season's final month to prepare for 2003.

Kicker James Tuthill was released in a series of moves. Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter was placed on injured reserve, punter Craig Jarrett and kicker Jose Cortez signed, punter Bryan Barker ruled out for the season and linebacker Kato Serwanga released from injured reserve.

However, the roster shakeup was distant to coach Steve Spurrier's concession that the last four games will become a barometer for the team's offseason needs. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey soon will start and Ladell Betts will get playing time over running back Stephen Davis. Spurrier wants to look hard at reserves to see if they can become starters next year as he prepares for free agency and the draft.

"We're going to play all of our players, but we may play some of our younger players a little more," Spurrier said. "We need to look at [running back] Ladell Betts. Maybe [receiver] Darnerien McCants needs a few more balls thrown at him. We believe it's a combination of older guys and younger guys and feel a little more free to substitute the younger guys."

After all, the Redskins (5-7) are on the brink of playoff elimination. Washington can catch Philadelphia (9-3) for the NFC East title only by winning its last four games and having the Eagles go 0-4. The Redskins then would edge the Eagles in the fourth tiebreaker, record against common opponents, 7-3 to 5-5.

A victory by Atlanta (8-3-1) and New Orleans (8-4) plus a Washington loss would end the Redskins' bid for one of the wild-card spots. New Orleans has a tiebreaker over Washington because of its 43-27 victory over the Redskins on Oct. 13.

"We thought we'd be a little bit better," Spurrier said. "You could say a few plays here and there might have won a couple of close ones, but a few plays here and there we might have lost a couple of close ones."

Quarterback Danny Wuerffel will start against the New York Giants at FedEx Field on Sunday and probably at Philadelphia on Dec. 15. However, Ramsey will start against either Houston on Dec. 22 or Dallas on Dec. 29. Spurrier wouldn't say whether Wuerffel could remain the starter next year.

"I would hate to say we ruled [Wuerffel] out. We certainly haven't ruled him in," Spurrier said. "We sorta know what Danny gives us. We feel that Danny deserves to hang in there this week and see how it goes from there."

The special teams shakeup means the Redskins have a new kicker, punter and holder, plus snapper Ethan Albright has a sore left hand, though he claimed "you could chop off a left hand and it wouldn't matter" because he holds the ball with his right.

"Those [simultaneous moves] are weird," special teams coach Mike Stock said. "Forty-one years of coaching, I've never had this happen."

Tuthill was waived after missing five of his last six field goal attempts and an extra point in the last four games. Tuthill opened by converting nine of 10 field goals but hit a goalpost three times and slipped during an attempt at the game-winner against New York on Nov. 17.

"It's always sad to let a guy go," Spurrier said, "but it seemed like James lost his confidence a little bit."

San Francisco released Cortez on Nov. 26 after missing a potential game-winning field goal against San Diego. Cortez converted 18 of 24 field goals and all 25 extra points over 10 games after making 20 of 25 field goals last year. He also played in the XFL and NFL Europe.

When San Francisco drafted kicker Jeff Chandler in the fourth round and kept him on the roster, Cortez knew his future was tentative.

"I wasn't thinking about [being released if I played poorly], but you knew if that happened that's what they were going to do," he said.

Jarrett returned after recently spending one week on the Redskins practice squad when Barker sprained his ankle. He was waived by Seattle during training camp after being taken in the sixth round and spent part of the season on San Francisco's practice squad. Jarrett will double as the holder, too.

Barker wanted to return after meeting with doctors yesterday. However, Spurrier said it was too dangerous after Barker suffered a badly broken nose against Dallas on Thursday.

Spurrier said the Redskins also will watch punt returner Champ Bailey and kick returner Kenny Watson closely over the final games to decide whether they need to seek a returner over the offseason.

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