- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

The Washington Redskins will complete a restructuring of defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson’s contract today or release him, vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said last night.

“One way or the other, we’ll move forward,” Cerrato said. “We’d love to have him, but if not we’ve got to move forward.”

The Redskins held Wilkinson out of yesterday’s practices while opening talks with his new agent, Brig Owens. The club wants Wilkinson to cut his $3.5 million salary, and by holding him out of practice the Redskins eliminated the chance of him getting injured and them being on the hook for the figure.

Wilkinson’s former agent, George Mavrikes, allowed yesterday’s talks to commence by waiving the typical five-day moratorium. NFL sources said Wilkinson was willing to accept a pay cut — the Redskins’ ardent hope in recent weeks — if the club was willing to guarantee part of his salary.

That basic argument has been the battleground for some time, but talks weren’t productive during Mavrikes’ time with Wilkinson. The Redskins had been hoping their threats to cut Wilkinson would lead to a pay cut without any guarantees.

Now it seems their threat is serious, though it remains unclear who would replace Wilkinson. Jermaine Haley would move into the starting lineup for the time being and the club would continue to monitor possible cuts by other teams during camp. Still, Washington would jeopardize its defensive line, which already is considered the team’s biggest question mark.

One note was that Wilkinson, who watched practice in street clothes, appeared to be in excellent shape, as a number of his teammates noted. He has been hoping to play this season close to 300 pounds after exceeding 350 at times last year.

Champ focused

Cornerback Champ Bailey thinks he deserves discussion with the Redskins regarding a long-term contract extension.

Bailey, whose rookie deal expires after this season, considered holding out from camp but ultimately decided he didn’t want that negativity. Still, he and agent Jack Reale believe there’s no reason Washington can’t begin discussing an extension before this season.

“I realize I’m underpaid,” Bailey said. “I realize I deserve more. Maybe that was my mistake in the beginning. [But] I’m not going to be a [jerk] and try to hold out. I’m going to do my thing.”

The three-time Pro Bowl pick acknowledged that uncertain contract situations can cause distractions — citing tackle Jon Jansen last year, running back Stephen Davis in 2000 and linebacker Jeremiah Trotter when he was in Philadelphia in 2001. But Bailey also is determined not to let himself get off-track.

“I know that that can cause distractions,” Bailey said. “I know that from experience, being around guys who have done it. I’ve seen what they go through. … I’ve got one job, and that’s to be the best. That is it. Win some championships. That’s my goal. I’m going to get the most [money] that I possibly can, but I can’t get anything if I’m not the best.”

Last year for Bruce?

Defensive end Bruce Smith, who considered retirement this offseason, hinted that he won’t be back for 2004 but wouldn’t say for sure.

“I’ve been thinking that for quite some time,” Smith said.

Later, asked to clarify whether this is his last season, he replied, “I’m not giving any definitive answers right now.”

Extra points

Trotter participated in both practices but was held back somewhat in his snaps. It was an upbeat sign for his rehabilitation from a torn ACL, and of his knee he said, “for the most part, it felt great.”

Defensive ends Regan Uphsaw and Ladairis Jackson, both rehabbing knee injuries, practiced in the morning and skipped the afternoon. Smith, whose knees must be babied at this point in his career, worked out only in the afternoon.

Cornerback Lloyd Harrison will be out until September after undergoing surgery for a torn biceps tendon. Cornerback Bruce Branch, who was on an NFL Europe exemption, will miss the season after having reconstructive ACL surgery. … Running back Ladell Betts was absent due to a funeral in the family.

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