- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 13, 2002

The Washington Redskins began reworking their struggling special teams yesterday, cutting punt returner Jacquez Green and evaluating replacements for punter Bryan Barker in case he continues to perform poorly.

Green, a fifth-year veteran out of Florida, was frustrated by his lack of playing time on offense as a receiver and had been asking to be released "for six weeks," according to one source close to him. Green signed as a free agent for a small bonus and the minimum salary to reunite with former Florida coach Steve Spurrier and had just five catches for 94 yards with no starts.

"Basically, Jacquez appeared to not be extremely happy to be a Redskin," coach Steve Spurrier said. "His attitude was that he wanted to be somewhere else. We felt we would allow him to do that. We want players who want to be Redskins."

Green's declining production on punt returns eased the Redskins' decision to cut him. Green took one back 90 yards for a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept.16 but otherwise averaged just 5.3 yards per return.

The move leaves cornerback Champ Bailey as the primary punt returner. Bailey, however, needs some work in that area. He let the Jacksonville Jaguars gain an extra 20 yards on one kick in Sunday's loss when he was caught off guard by the ball's spin and let it bounce to the Redskins' 6.

Bailey's error and some poor punting by Barker last weekend marked the second time in Washington's past three losses that special teams played a big role in the defeat. On Oct.13, the coverage units allowed a kickoff return and a punt return for touchdowns that helped thwart a rally against the New Orleans Saints.

Barker won't be replaced this week, but his margin for error is shrinking. His up-and-down season hit a low Sunday when his first punt, from deep in Redskins territory, went just 12 yards and set up a Jaguars touchdown. Another of his punts out of the end zone went 33 yards and set up a field goal.

For the season, Barker ranks last in the NFL with a 29.7-yard net average. Last year he placed a more respectable 22nd (34.8 yards) in his first season with the Redskins, and five years ago he made the Pro Bowl with a 38.8-yard net average for Jacksonville.

The Redskins began evaluating their options by working out four punters at Redskin Park: Lee Johnson, Casey Roussel, Dirk Johnson and John Baker. But the team isn't quite ready to jettison its 38-year-old incumbent, for several reasons.

First, officials believe Barker is capable of rebounding from Sunday, particularly because he had a solid day against the Seattle Seahawks a week earlier, dropping two punts inside the 5 and helping the offense-starved Redskins to a narrow win.

Second, the team is wary of trying to solve one problem only to create another. Barker is the holder for first-year kicker James Tuthill, who has made nine of 11 field goals and all 14 of his extra-point attempts.

The New York Giants, Washington's upcoming opponent, blew two field goals and two extra points in Sunday's win over Minnesota with newly signed punter Tom Rouen doing some of the holding.

"Regardless of what's happened personally, [Barker is] a steadying factor for this young kid," special teams coach Mike Stock said.

Also, Washington is wary of bringing in an inexperienced punter. He might boot the ball longer and higher than Barker but make another kind of error that costs the team.

"There's more to it than just saying, 'Let's go get another guy,'" Stock said. "There's flexibility in all this. Nobody's come to any conclusions but certainly it's a consideration to seek out other people who might be potential [replacements]. Hopefully, we'll get Bryan turned around and get him consistent these next seven ballgames."

Barker, for his part, was "shocked" by Sunday's poor performance. He said he feels "great physically" and that the problems this season have come because he hasn't "handled the circumstances as well as I'd like to."

"If anything it just gives me some motivation to improve, to get out there and find a way to get better," Barker said. "I'm not going to give up on the things I've been doing. I'm just going to focus on doing some of the little things better than I've been doing them."

In Green's place the Redskins promoted wide receiver Justin Skaggs from the practice squad. Skaggs was the No.1 kickoff returner during minicamps, but his production declined during training camp. He remains an aggressive young prospect who might contribute on special teams.

"Skaggs has a wonderful attitude," Spurrier said. "He's an excellent worker in practice. That's the kind of attitude that fans want to see, and that's what we want to see as coaches, too. He has a lot of ability, a lot of talent."

Backing up Bailey on punt returns will be 42-year-old Darrell Green, who sparkled at the job in spot duty during the early portion of his 20-year career. Green, however, has not returned a punt since 1993 and has just one return since 1990.

The Redskins also worked out a long snapper, Mike Malcyk.

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