- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 26, 2002

Washington Redskins right guard Brenden Stai is all but certain to be out tomorrow night against the Indianapolis Colts, and Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels seems likely to join him.

Both sat out yesterday, making it a full week without practice. Coach Steve Spurrier called them "extremely doubtful."

Wilbert Brown is set to replace Stai for a second straight game, with newly signed Tre Johnson likely seeing some time as a reserve right guard. Alex Sulfsted is expected to make his first NFL start for Samuels; Kipp Vickers also will be available at that spot.

Stai, for his part, is certain he will sit out with tendinitis in his left knee. He tried light running on the side during Wednesday's practice but hasn't done anything since.

"I'm out," Stai said. "Sitting down with the doctor, he didn't think [playing is] a good idea, especially not practicing for a week and a half. I'll wait til next week, get some practice time in. Hopefully, it will feel better."

Line coach Kim Helton wasn't quite as sure, saying, "I'm not going to lose hope until Sunday. Sometime around midday, you make those decisions. We'll see."

Said Samuels: "There's still a lot of pain in my ankle [which was sprained in the preseason and aggravated during last weekend's loss at Green Bay]." However, he did see a chance he could play and avoid missing a start for the first time in his 2½-year NFL career.

"Right now it's kind of questionable," Samuels said. "Maybe 50-50 right now."

Meanwhile, Johnson was pleased with his first week of work after signing Monday. He isn't in game shape yet, but he believes he's better off having rested for the first part of the season while rehabilitating his right knee. He tore his right quadriceps in 2001 where the muscle meets the knee.

"It's been a good week of work in terms of cardio, getting back into it," Johnson said. "Being off for six, seven weeks is a long time not to be in the football mode. I definitely needed [the work]. I just need two or three more weeks to get right."

Washington's patchwork line will try to rebound from a two-game stretch in which it allowed rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey to be sacked 13 times. Veteran Shane Matthews, who was banged up in Weeks 2 and 3 during his first stint as a starter, is back and won't be able to take the pounding Ramsey received.

Complicating matters is the talent of Colts pass rushers like Chad Bratzke, Dwight Freeney and Brad Scioli, who have three sacks apiece. Indianapolis has the NFL's fourth-ranked pass defense.

LaVar is back

It was only a month ago that linebacker LaVar Arrington was frustrated by Marvin Lewis' scheme and playing far below his Pro Bowl standard. Now he is coming off three sharp games, and the Redskins' defense suddenly ranks No.11, including No.7 against the pass.

The trademark ferocious hits started to emerge last week, when Arrington sacked Packers quarterback Brett Favre and knocked him from the game with a sprained knee.

"I'm getting to a point where I feel so good out there, it doesn't matter what [opponents are] doing [to stop me]," Arrington said. "I'm starting to get to the ball. I'm feeling good. I think the defense is coming around. I think we're close.

"I decided in myself, I'm just going to play. I don't need anybody sitting there and the topic of conversation is, 'Do Marvin and LaVar like each other?' I need it to be, 'This defense is making strides.' Because in the end, we're trying to win games, we're trying to be good, we're trying to be very good."

Arrington's improvement has been particularly important for the nickel pass rush. He lines up at left defensive end in such situations, a position that was uncomfortable early on. Now he leads the team with five sacks and gives Lewis important versatility in those situations because he can drop into coverage.

Lewis called the importance of Arrington's adjustment "huge," explaining, "The frustration of not getting a sack every play, you've got to go through that. You think you're supposed to run by and get a sack every play, but for a pass rusher, every rush sets up the next rush. And that's what you've got to learn."

McCants active

Wide receiver Darnerien McCants will be active for just the third time this season, and this time Spurrier hopes to get him some passes.

McCants, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound prospect the Redskins picked in 2001's fifth round, was active in Weeks 2 and 3 but didn't get on the field. This week he has seen practice time in three- and four-receiver sets, according to Spurrier.

"We just think we need to give him a chance," Spurrier said. "That's the way I coach. I can't play the same guys every week if they're not playing well. We're going to give Darnerien a chance, see what he can do. He's made some big plays in preseason. He deserves a chance."

Barring the unexpected, receiver Kevin Lockett seems likely to be inactive. Lockett started Oct.6 at Tennessee and Oct.13 against New Orleans, but he has just three catches in the past two games with a critical fumble last weekend at Green Bay.

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