- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

CARLISLE, Pa. The Washington Redskins were strongly considering signing talented defensive tackle Daryl Gardener last night but got bad news earlier in the day when rookie wide receiver Cliff Russell tore an ACL in practice.

Gardener, 29, was in town after undergoing a physical earlier in the day in the District area. No offer was made last night, but one could come as early as this morning.

A capable interior run-stopper, he has been considered among the NFL's better defensive tackles, but questions about his back and level of commitment led to his recent release by the Miami Dolphins.

With Washington, he could solidify a somewhat suspect line that is considered the question mark on an otherwise formidable defense. The Redskins never found a replacement for departed tackle Kenard Lang, and Bruce Smith's durability at age 39 is uncertain. Gardener, at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, would join widebody Dan Wilkinson and give Washington the stout interior many believe is crucial to defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis' scheme.

Meanwhile, Russell will undergo surgery once the swelling subsides in his knee and will need at least six months to rehabilitate. Russell, the second of two third-round draft picks by the Redskins this spring, was the club's fastest receiver and, according to coach Steve Spurrier, a likely candidate to be one of the five wideouts on the final roster.

Russell's injury occurred in the morning practice when he attempted to plant and cut on a pass pattern. He felt a shift in his knee something that made Redskins trainers immediately fear a torn ACL. Russell had some injury history with the knee but that apparently did not play any role in yesterday's setback.

Russell seemed to fit well into Spurrier's offense with his speed and ability to get open. He is not the most polished receiver the reason he fell to the third round but he performed above expectations in mini-camps. He also might have competed for a kickoff returner position.

The injury isn't a total loss for the club, though, because it was almost overstocked with young prospects at receiver. The Redskins do not plan to pursue another wideout and instead will find their five or six best from the nine that remain.

"This gives some of the other guys a chance," Spurrier said. "We've had 10 guys out there, and that's almost too much."

Gardener was said to have had an impressive workout with the Detroit Lions on Wednesday and Detroit seemed interested in him as a stopgap for injured Shaun Rogers. However, the Lions' interest was said to have dropped off.

St. Louis was a late entry to the race last night and was interested in a workout by Gardener today. However, Gardener wanted to stay in town last night to see if he could get something done with the Redskins.

Gardener's camp isn't interested in a series of visits, so Washington was expected to win him with a solid initial bid. Several other clubs might try to scoop up Gardener if the Redskins fail to sign him.

The poor timing of Gardener's release left him realistic about potential contract offers. NFL sources said he was willing to settle for a cap-friendly deal that got him in the right situation this season and rewarded him with guaranteed money in future years. Gardener was looking for a multi-year contract.

Gardener's problems in Miami apparently boiled down to a clash with coach Dave Wannstedt, insufficient attendance at offseason workouts and missed phone calls. Washington has to accept the risk of similar problems, as well as his inability to participate in two-a-day practices in camp something his back won't allow for.

However, the upside could be the final piece to a promising starting defense. Some in Gardener's camp believe that Washington's talent, combined with the grass surface at FedEx Field, would make the perfect change of scenery.

There were no serious injuries yesterday other than Russell's. Kicker Brett Conway, who was put on the active/non-football injury list earlier this week due to an illness, is expected to return today after kicking briefly yesterday.

Meanwhile, there was no apparent progress in the contract talks for top pick Patrick Ramsey. The quarterback, selected 32nd overall, today will match the four-day holdout of wide receiver Rod Gardner last season. The sides have yet to agree on any aspect of the deal and the complex layering of escalators is shaping up as the biggest hurdle.

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