- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

It would be beautiful: Fullback-turned-tailback Rock Cartwright gets his first NFL start against good friend Stephen Davis, also once converted by the Washington Redskins from fullback to tailback.

But it’s not yet to be. Last weekend’s concussion to starting fullback Bryan Johnson forced Cartwright to take most of the snaps at fullback yesterday, and although Johnson is probable for Sunday’s game against Davis’ Carolina Panthers, Redskins coach Steve Spurrier wasn’t ready to say if Cartwright would start.

Of course, Spurrier also didn’t dampen speculation that Cartwright’s 13-carry, 81-yard performance in Sunday’s win over Seattle earned him the job over Trung Canidate.

“Rock could play a lot at tailback,” Spurrier said. “We’ll talk about it as the week goes. There’s certainly a chance that Rock will play a whole lot more.”

Starting against Davis would be particularly special for Cartwright, a diminutive 2002 seventh-round pick by Washington who continues to impress with his play-making ability and toughness.

Davis and Cartwright became very close a year ago in their only season together, the veteran even inviting the rookie home for Christmas. These days they stay in touch several times a week even though they’re on different teams.

“Me and Stephen are like the best of friends,” Cartwright said. “We spent a lot of time together off the field. I look at Stephen as my big brother, and I look at him as a role model also.”

Davis played fullback for Washington in 1998 after several years backing up Terry Allen, then beat out Skip Hicks for the tailback job in 1999. Then came three straight seasons of more than 1,300 yards, two Pro Bowl appearances and the Redskins’ No.3 career total for rushing yards (5,790).

Now Davis is pleased to see his young friend showing a bit of the same potential.

“I’m happy for him and proud of him,” Davis said. “He’s worked hard to be in the position he’s in.”

Russell in shape?

Two days after Spurrier questioned the conditioning of defensive tackle Darrell Russell, defensive coordinator George Edwards attributed Russell’s plateaued snaps to Seattle’s personnel groupings.

Russell, signed two weeks ago to the prorated portion of a one-year, $1.5 million contract, was expected to get increased activity against the Seahawks after getting in for about 20 plays in his Redskins debut at Dallas. But his snaps didn’t increase, and he wasn’t much of a factor in Washington’s win.

“We had hoped to increase his reps this past week,” Edwards said. “But the situation turned into a ‘sub’ game, and he didn’t take all the sub reps. We were sort of trying to get a pass rush and rotate guys in there. … We look to increase his reps this week. He’s done well in terms of what we’ve asked him to do.”

There has been some criticism around the league of Washington’s decision to sign Russell quickly without working him out. Last night vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said the Redskins “knew exactly where he was” in terms of conditioning.

“He’s got to play himself into condition,” Cerrato said. “Football conditioning is a lot different from running conditioning. Each week he’s going to get better and better. That’s normal.”

Russell called himself “75 percent” and said he “can hold [his] own” but that he aims to be in better shape.

“My weight’s not particularly where I want it to be, but I think I’m getting there,” Russell said. “I got a big chunk of my mojo back this last Sunday. We’ll see where it goes from there. But in a short amount of time, I’ve gotten very comfortable.”

Jimoh not out

Despite two more noticeable gaffes Sunday, rookie cornerback Ade Jimoh remains part of Washington’s defensive backs rotation. Part of the reason is injuries: No. 3 corner Rashad Bauman is questionable with a sprained ankle after missing the past two games.

“Right now, we’re still playing him,” Edwards said. “It just depends on the personnel group. We’ve got to match personnel to personnel. If they come out in four wides, you can’t line up with a bunch of defensive linemen.”

On Sunday, Jimoh incurred a personal foul for pushing Seattle’s kickoff returner out of bounds, and he and safety Matt Bowen got crossed up on a receiver in motion and left Bobby Engram wide-open for the Seahawks’ first touchdown. The mistakes followed two long touchdowns allowed in limited snaps early this season.

“It seems like all of his plays for the Redskins so far have been bad plays,” Spurrier said. “We think there’s hope for him. Hopefully, he’ll make a good play before the season’s over.”

Jimoh said Sunday’s two mistakes were “nothing to worry about” and that he has lost no confidence.

Extra points

Running back Ladell Betts (forearm), center Larry Moore (foot), Bauman, defensive tackle Jermaine Haley (thumb/shoulder), safety Andre Lott (ankle), return man Chad Morton (ankle), wide receiver Laveranues Coles (toe), defensive end Bruce Smith (thumb/knee) and cornerback Fred Smoot (chest) all skipped practice.

Betts won’t play at Carolina. Moore probably will be replaced by Lennie Friedman for a second straight week. Bauman, Haley, Lott and Morton are questionable, while Coles, Smith and Smoot should be fine. Also of note, safety Matt Bowen practiced despite a concussion Sunday and should play. …

The Redskins re-signed offensive lineman Mitch White and moved offensive lineman Pita Elisara to the practice squad.

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