- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 18, 2003

Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier shuffled to a more neutral position on his assistant coaches yesterday, qualifying a statement he made Wednesday in defense of his staff.

One day after refuting a local report that suggested he soon might fire some assistants, Spurrier stressed he didn’t say he wasn’t planning to fire anyone, either.

“All I was trying to say was that if there are some changes, it would have to occur after the season,” Spurrier said. “I don’t really even like to talk about that. But when the season’s over, whatever you have to do differently, that’s when we do it. Not during the season.”

Asked whether that meant he planned to fire some assistants, he replied, “I’m not getting into all that. We’ll announce that when the time comes if it does come. How’s that for not saying anything?”

Bottom line: Two sources close to Spurrier indicated that no final decisions have been made regarding the assistant coaches. But he does appear willing to consider potential changes, which diminishes the chances of a showdown between him and owner Dan Snyder over staffing issues at season’s end.

Management has been convinced since late in the first half of the season that Spurrier needs more experienced assistants. For his part, Spurrier has acted with a high degree of loyalty as Redskins coach and has made several public statements in defense of his staff. But yesterday’s comments indicated the potential for compromise.

If Spurrier refuses changes, Snyder’s only leverage would be Spurrier’s job. That said, management sources continue to insist that Snyder supports Spurrier and that the coach’s job is safe.

The assistants whose futures are mentioned most frequently are defensive coordinator George Edwards and offensive line coach Kim Helton. Some in management also would like to see the departure of the assistants with virtually no NFL experience, such as receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr., tight ends coach Lawson Holland and outside linebackers coach Jim Collins.

Rock to start

Rock Cartwright has overcome the coaches’ preference for playing him at his natural fullback position. After various ailments forced him into the starting tailback spot last week, his performance convinced Spurrier to keep him there ahead of a healthy Chad Morton.

Cartwright will get his second career start at tailback Sunday at Chicago, Spurrier indicated. Morton will play second string and take care of his return duties. And Trung Canidate (foot) and Ladell Betts (forearm) in all likelihood will sit.

Even as Cartwright proved to be Washington’s most effective rusher, coaches maintained a preference for starting Canidate or Morton. Last weekend Morton was slated to start before suffering a return bout of the flu. Cartwright won over Spurrier by carrying 21 times for 94 yards in the loss to Dallas.

Spurrier acknowledged the performance altered his thinking about Cartwright, adding, “Rock played well. He’s a good, solid player.”

Cartwright is anything but prototypically shaped (5-foot-7, 223 pounds), but he has a knack for breaking the first tackle or two.

“To be a good running back in this league, you have to be able to break at least one tackle,” he said. “I take pride in that, and [former Redskin] Stephen [Davis] always helped me with that. That’s a big thing if I want to get my opportunity at that position.”

Extra points

Left tackle Chris Samuels was upbeat following the first major test of his sprained knee. After going through most of the Redskins’ outdoor practice, Samuels felt “pretty good” and was “expecting to play.” …

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles said the team has scheduled a visit for him to see Dr. Robert Anderson, the Charlotte, N.C.-based foot specialist who operated on quarterback Patrick Ramsey earlier this week. Coles missed a second straight practice with his fractured foot but remains confident he will play at Chicago. …

Cornerback Champ Bailey, after being selected to his fourth straight Pro Bowl, said fellow cornerback Fred Smoot deserved to go, too. On Tuesday, Smoot was named Redskins player of the year by the Quarterback Club.

“He should have been [in the Pro Bowl] with me,” Bailey said. “He had a great year. You don’t even have to mention injuries and what he’s been through. You take that away, and he’s still had a great year.”

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