- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

The Washington Redskins might have found a new rival.

The locker room was filled yesterday with tough talk and promised paybacks against an opponent few have faced as Redskins the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars are braced Sunday for the return of former Florida Gators coach Steve Spurrier, but many Redskins have personal agendas.

Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener remembered losing a playoff game to Jacksonville 62-7 as a Miami Dolphin. Receiver Chris Doering was cut by the Jaguars. Receiver Rod Gardner has 70 tickets for his homecoming. Quarterback Shane Matthews knows Gator Nation will be watching the former Florida passer. Defensive end Renaldo Wynn wants to prove Jacksonville was wrong to release him as a salary cap cut earlier this year.

The 72,000-seat Alltel Stadium is sold out for the first time this season. Jacksonville drew only 55,000 for its last home game, and that reportedly included many free tickets.

Many Florida fans wondered why Spurrier didn't take over the sagging Jaguars, though coach Tom Coughlin has been steadfastly backed by owner Wayne Weaver. Even Spurrier's mother, Marjorie Spurrier, told the Florida Times-Union: "Poor Jaguars. Maybe Winn-Dixie wouldn't have had to give away all those free tickets if he had come here. Isn't that amazing?"

Countered Spurrier: "I'm not responsible for what my 81-year-old mom says."

But the Jaguars have bristled over the steady talk of Spurrier's return to north Florida near his former Gainesville base. They expect the stadium to be divided.

"Spurrier's a borderline legend around these parts," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "I'm curious to see what the fans are going to be like this week. We're going to find out just how loyal our fans are. I'm sure there are a lot of people in this city who are confused on who they're going to cheer for."

Redskins coach George Allen once offered to fight Dallas counterpart Tom Landry for a victory. Gators fans probably wouldn't mind a Spurrier-Coughlin showdown.

"They'd probably sell tickets for that," Matthews said. "I think our coach would put up a pretty good fight."

Coughlin slept at the Jaguars' training facility Tuesday night before forcing the team through one of its harder practices this season. Wynn knows the renowned taskmaster is especially edgy because of a four-game losing streak and Spurrier's return.

"I know Coughlin wants this one," Wynn said. "I think he feels this is his one chance to kind of win the fans back. The fans are Gators fans. They love Spurrier. A lot of the fans and the media feel that Spurrier should have been there. I know it's pretty bad there right now, pretty intense. There's a dark cloud. He's probably got a remote control with a dark cloud over Jacksonville Stadium."

Dark would best describe Gardener's mood. He's still sore over the playoff drubbing three years ago.

"First of all, me and Coughlin, it's more of a personal game for me. I was in Miami, and he tried to rub our nose [in it]," Gardener said. "I took it personal, and I'm still taking it personal now, realizing I'm on the Redskins. But when I walk in that stadium, I mean business is going down. I know this: Coughlin's not going to take any stuff off of Steve Spurrier, and Coughin's going to have those boys ready."

Health watch

Running back Stephen Davis won't practice until at least tomorrow, with Spurrier saying it's "unlikely" Davis will play against the Jaguars. Davis said his sprained knee is improving but expects a game-day decision.

Guard Brenden Stai returned to practice after missing three games with tendinitis in his knee. However, offensive line coach Kim Helton said he doesn't expect Stai to play.

Receiver Rod Gardner was limited with a sore shoulder, while defensive tackle Carl Powell was out with a strained groin. Defensive end Bruce Smith was rested.

Extra points

The Redskins don't plan to adjust their game plan just because receiver Kevin Lockett now plays for the Jaguars following his release by Washington on Oct.31. Lockett was falsely accused of being an informer for coach Marty Schottenheimer last year.

"When you're running off tackle and running draw plays, there's not a lot he can tell them," Spurrier said.

The Redskins signed offensive tackle Akil Smith to the practice squad to replace offensive tackle Tim Struber, who was signed by the Carolina Panthers. Smith was among Washington's preseason cuts.


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