- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 27, 2002

CARLISLE, Pa. Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener returned to Miami yesterday without a deal, but the Washington Redskins remain interested in signing him.

Gardener declined comment aside from saying, "I'll surprise you," when he left morning practice following a workout for defensive line coach Ricky Hunley and passing a physical.

Team sources said there is internal conflict on whether to sign Gardener, who was released July19 by the Miami Dolphins after two back surgeries in two seasons and a dispute with coach Dave Wannstedt over switching to defensive end and missing offseason workouts.

The Redskins seem only willing to risk a modest deal. NFL sources said Gardener may wait until the Redskins return from their preseason opener Aug.3 in Osaka, Japan, before deciding. Avoiding the 14-hour flight could be a factor given Gardener's past back problems.

Gardener's options appear slim, though Denver may offer a one-year deal. Gardener canceled a trip to St. Louis after the Rams expressed interest on Thursday. Houston and Detroit passed following Gardener's recent visits.

The Redskins are still looking for a starting tackle after the lingering calf injury to Santana Dotson. Gardener was playing well last season in Miami before missing the last eight games following back surgery.

"When he's been healthy, he's been very good," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said.

Coach Steve Spurrier was undeterred by Gardener's run-ins with Wannstedt. The team has investigated Gardener's alleged locker room problems.

"A new environment sometimes helps players," Spurrier said. "He had some problems down there, but a new setting gets a player off in the right direction. Sometimes we all need a new setting."

Guard troubles

The Redskins are growing increasingly unhappy with their guards and soon could bring in a free agent, according to team sources.

"Those [defensive] tackles we've got are pushing us around pretty good right now," Spurrier said.

Right guard Rod Jones worked on the left side for the first time as coaches question whether he can convert from center. Kipp Vickers replaced Jones.

Left guard David Loverne is out a week with a sprained right elbow. Guard Alex Sulfsted has missed two days for personal reasons.

Russell stunned

Third-round receiver Cliff Russell thought his season-ending knee injury was merely a sprain when he fell during a passing drill Thursday. Instead, the torn ACL knee ligament will require surgery and six months' rehabilitation.

"I said, 'Please tell me you're kidding,'" Russell said. "It happened so quickly. I was just running a simple route. I guess my cleat came up from under me and buckled my knee. I think my foot may have gotten stuck in the turf. I didn't think it was bad at all."

Ramsey status quo

There was no movement on negotiations with quarterback Patrick Ramsey. Barring a quick deal before Monday, Ramsey probably will miss the trip to Japan. Agreeing to a deal when the team resumes workouts on Aug.6 would surpass quarterback Heath Shuler's 13-day holdout in 1994.

Spurrier long has resisted commenting on negotiations, but he seemed increasingly irritated over Ramsey's absence.

"I've got a lot more to worry about than somebody who's not here," he said. "We're trying to see if we can block somebody in the middle of the line, see if we can get some passes off in the middle of the line."

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