- The Washington Times - Friday, January 17, 2003

Marvin Lewis' departure to Cincinnati and Bill Parcells' return to the NFL have created "some options" for defensive tackle Daryl Gardener, though he still hopes to re-sign with the Washington Redskins before free agency starts on Feb.28.
The Redskins' player of the year, who exited Redskin Park at season's end with only a book and declared, "I know for a fact, 100 percent, that I'll be a Redskin," is just starting to consider life outside the club particularly now that Washington's defensive coordinator has become the new Bengals coach.
"I do have some options, some choices," Gardener said yesterday in a phone interview. "I'm going to keep in mind the Marvin Lewis situation but give the Redskins every chance to sign me. And if it doesn't happen, there will be no hesitation, none at all, to be in Cincinnati."
Gardener also recalled that Parcells is one of the two NFL coaches, along with Jimmy Johnson, that he hoped to play for when he exited Baylor in 1996. He got the chance to play for Johnson from 1996 to 1999 in Miami. Parcells came out of retirement several weeks ago to coach Dallas.
The Redskins have made little progress on an extension for Gardener, who turns 30 next month, after both sides expressed interest in a deal late in the season. His first priority remains Washington but that could change by the time the market opens in a month and a half.
"The Redskins have me on edge right now," Gardener said. "[Lewis departure] has sparked some interest. But I made a commitment to the Washington Redskins and to their fans."
The difference-maker on the Redskins' defensive line this season was Gardener, even though he came to Washington with questions about his back and character. He overcame early back spasms and proved to have an excellent work ethic.
His 71 tackles led the club's linemen but more importantly his disruption on the interior created plays for teammates.
Defensive lineman Carl Powell is another pending unrestricted free agent who might start mulling joining Lewis in a few weeks. Like Gardener, Powell was applauded by coaches for his energy and enthusiasm. As in Gardener's case, Powell wants to stay in Washington and the Redskins want him back but talks are at a standstill.
Agent Jerrold Colton yesterday said Powell remains "hopeful" of re-signing before the market opens but that Lewis' departure might be an issue later on.
"Does it present another variable?" Colton said. "That's a bridge to cross if something doesn't get worked out before free agency."
Powell, who just turned 29, impressed as a "swing" lineman for Washington in 2002, filling in at both end and tackle before taking over for injured tackle Dan Wilkinson for the final month.
Gardener and Powell, unlike most of Washington's free agents, already are targeted for extensions, and both want to return without testing the market. And new defensive coordinator George Edwards, promoted from linebackers coach, said Wednesday, "Those guys are good players, and we definitely want to have them as part of our scheme."
The fact that Edwards is keeping Lewis' scheme makes Gardener confident that the defense can continue the performance that earned it the NFL's No.5 ranking.
"We still have a shot of going to the Super Bowl because George is going to be running [Lewis] defense," Gardener said. "We know we can dominate."
However, that doesn't mean Gardener doesn't miss Lewis already.
"I'm his guy," he said. "He humbled me in a lot of ways. I wanted at least one more year with him in Washington."
Lewis apparently has taken one Redskin with him to Cincinnati strength coach Chip Morton, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel. Coach Steve Spurrier confirmed that he had given Morton permission to interview but couldn't say whether the hiring had taken place, and Lewis was unavailable for comment.
Line coach Ricky Hunley is expected to interview for Lewis' linebackers post, as well.


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