- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

The Washington Redskins' leading receiver, Rod Gardner, was demoted from the starting lineup yesterday as coach Steve Spurrier made changes he had promised after his team's loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

Receivers Chris Doering and Derrius Thompson will start Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, Spurrier said. However, Gardner, Kevin Lockett and Jacquez Green likely still will figure prominently.

"There's not a lot of difference," Spurrier said. "When you've got a superstar guy out there that runs good routes and catches everything, he'll play more than anybody else. Right now, we don't have a superstar that catches everything.

"We're going to try to play all of them. They've all done some good things here and there. We're just searching for one or two of them to consistently do a lot of things. Who knows? Jacquez Green might be in the starting lineup. He had a good day in practice today."

Spurrier promised to make changes after the 43-27 loss to the Saints in which the special teams allowed two touchdowns and quarterback Patrick Ramsey threw four interceptions and was sacked seven times. However, the Redskins won't make any moves on special teams or defense. Shuffling receivers is the only remaining change, with Thompson being named a starter over Lockett on Wednesday.

Gardner appeared to be confused about his new role, saying he still expects to play often. Spurrier said Gardner could see action as early as the second snap.

"I'm just baffled by it," Gardner said. "I just go play, but you still want to be the man. I can't remember the last time I didn't start."

Gardner's status as the No.1 receiver hadn't been challenged since the preseason. Since then, the Redskins have struggled to find a complementary receiver. His 21 catches for 331 yards lead the Redskins. And, except for a one-catch performance against the San Francisco 49ers, Gardner has grabbed at least four passes a game.

Gardner is perplexed by the demotion, which will end his 21-game streak as a starter. The first-round pick in the 2001 draft caught 46 passes for 741 yards and four touchdowns last season as the No.2 receiver behind Michael Westbrook, who wasn't re-signed. Although Gardner sometimes struggled in Spurrier's system and caused an interception against the Saints when he bobbled a pass, his role was never previously questioned.

"It lights a bonfire under you, but is that good or bad I don't know," Gardner said. "As a receiving corps, you can get a little frustrated. I don't know what Spurrier might do at the end of the week. I think he just felt like he wants to play one over another. I don't know what it is.

"He just flip flops and sees what happens. Regardless of what happens, I know I'm going to be on the field anyway. I'm going to go out and make plays."

Doering has seven receptions for 78 yards despite being inactive for one game. He started the last two games as the Redskins used three-wide sets without a tight end but has never started during his four-year career in a traditional two-receiver set. Before this season, Doering caught only three passes and didn't play the last two years.

Thompson started the first three games, but after four receptions against Arizona in the opener, he caught just one against Philadelphia and none against San Francisco before yielding to Lockett. Thompson returned three kickoffs against Tennessee and made two standout special teams tackles before catching three passes against New Orleans.

Record chase

The NFL sack record is proving elusive for defensive end Bruce Smith. He missed a possible pair against New Orleans.

Smith stopped Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks at the end of the first quarter before linebacker LaVar Arrington finished it off to claim the sack. Smith also chased Brooks across the field and sideline for a 1-yard gain.

Smith finished the game with a season-high eight tackles, but he remained 11 sacks behind NFL leader Reggie White's 198. After a career-low five last season and one so far this season, Smith's chances of catching White seem only fair.

"They'll come," Smith said. "I just can't lose sight of the goal and keep pounding at it. If you don't have that kind of effort, you won't get those sacks. If you keep the effort up, they'll come. But it's about winning. Then the record will be broken and all those other stats."

Smith's chances may be bolstered by tackle Daryl Gardener, who has created an intimidating inside pass rush to keep opposing linemen from double-teaming Smith.

"I'm starting to feel more comfortable next to Daryl Gardener," Smith said. "We're just starting to jell. As a result of that, I don't have the numbers sack-wise, but I'm putting a tremendous amount of pressure on the quarterback."

Smith, 39, reworked his contract earlier this year and might return next season to continue chasing White.

"The record would be something we'd all be proud of," said defensive line coach Ricky Hunley.

Chilling out

Cornerback Fred Smoot winced when he heard it might snow at Green Bay. The Mississippi native hates cold weather and said there's no way he'll ever play for a northern team.

"They'd have to have a La-Z-Boy with a heater in it [on the sideline]," Smoot said.

Then again, fellow Mississippian Brett Favre has spent 10 years as Green Bay's quarterback. Smoot admitted a lucrative free agent deal might lure him to a cold-weather city one day, adding. "Money will warm anybody up."

Extra points

Guard Brenden Stai (knee) and quarterback Danny Wuerffel (shoulder) didn't practice. The Redskins won't decide on Stai until tomorrow, but Wilbert Brown practiced at right guard while David Loverne returned to left guard. Practice squad defensive end Bernard Jackson wore cornerback Champ Bailey's Georgia jersey after Jackson's alma mater Tennessee lost to Bailey's Bulldogs on Saturday. Bailey is weighing wagers with several Florida alumni on the coming Nov.2 meeting.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide