- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 3, 2002

The competition for the starting left guard position remains open, Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday.

David Loverne yesterday worked at left guard with the starting offensive line, which did not play together in a preseason game. He is in a battle with Ross Tucker and Kipp Vickers to see who will start Sunday in the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals. Tucker and Vickers each saw time at left guard during preseason.

"We may just rotate those three around and see who's playing the best and the one that plays the best can play the whole second half," Spurrier said jokingly. "There's not a huge difference."

Loverne appeared to have the early edge because he practiced with the starters. Vickers said he was preparing to be the backup at left guard and tackle.

"We're in a pretty good position where we have several different guys," he said. "I'm preparing for whatever."

Meanwhile, the coaching staff decided that running back Kenny Watson will return kicks, receiver Jacquez Green will double as the punt returner and Derrius Thompson will get the start as the No. 2 receiver.

Special teams coach Mike Stock said Green's experience returning punts at Tampa Bay provided the edge over cornerback Champ Bailey. However, the coach said Bailey could be called upon to return punts at times. Watson impressed Stock with his ability to find a seam, a skill that helped him average 21.4 yards during the preseason. Thompson and Green will be the alternates at kick returner.

Thompson, who didn't catch a pass when he started opposite receiver Rod Gardner in the last two preseason games, impressed Spurrier enough with his 16 receptions for 307 yards and four touchdowns in the first three games to earn the promotion. He had just three catches all of last year.

"He's been more productive than any of our receivers," Spurrier said. "He made a lot of plays. He deserves to start."

Samuels returns

Offensive tackle Chris Samuels will start against Arizona. Samuels practiced for the first time since suffering a sprained ankle against Carolina on Aug. 10. He estimated he's 90 percent healthy after the long layoff.

"I don't think it will affect me," Samuels said. "I think I'll go out there and play well."

Linebackers LaVar Arrington (hamstring, knee) and Eddie Mason (shoulder) plus defensive tackle Daryl Gardener (back) all practiced yesterday and also are expected to play against the Cardinals.

Linebacker Antonio Pierce, who had a high ankle sprain and was told by the trainer that he would miss one month, will get the cast removed from his ankle today. Pierce said he plans to return against Philadelphia on Sept. 16.

Relief pitcher?

Spurrier said it could be beneficial to play both Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel throughout the season, though Matthews, after his solid effort in the preseason, remains the starter.

"It takes the pressure off both of them," Spurrier said. "Neither one of them has gone a full season. Shane has had some injuries here and there that have kept him from going the distance. I believe getting both of them ready every week is the best way to go. People say you hurt a quarterback's confidence taking him out of the game. Sometimes they look at you and say 'Coach, I need to get out of here.' Sometimes when you start a game as bad as it went for Danny the other night, he needed some relief."

Matthews will take 70 percent of the snaps and Wuerffel 30 percent during regular-season practices while rookie Patrick Ramsey will run the scout team. Previous Redskins coaches often gave starters 90 percent of the weekday work.

Extra points

The Redskins signed receiver Justin Skaggs, offensive tackle Reggie Coleman, safety Ricot Joseph, running back Robert Gillespie and defensive end Bernard Jackson to the practice squad after releasing them during the final cuts on Sunday. Spurrier said he'll watch the Florida-Miami game on Saturday, but that he didn't miss being at Florida last weekend when the college season opened, "I've got too much on my mind to worry about that." Receiver Chris Doering switched from No.19 to No.84.

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