- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2003

Though they haven’t made a formal decision yet, the Washington Redskins plan to start Trung Canidate at tailback tomorrow against the Carolina Panthers, with Rock Cartwright also getting his share of rushing attempts.

“Me and Coach [Steve Spurrier] still haven’t finalized it, but in my mind, Trung is still our starter,” offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said. “We’re going to give him the first opportunity to go out there and play.”

The Redskins’ plan of action is consistent with the way they’ve handled the tailback position all season. Canidate has started all seven games that he’s been healthy, but each time he’s split carries with either tailbacks Ladell Betts or Chad Morton or Cartwright, a fullback.

After missing two games with a high ankle sprain, Canidate returned for last week’s win over Seattle, but he struggled with 34 yards on 15 attempts. Cartwright, meanwhile, had a career day, rushing 18 times for 81 yards and giving Spurrier and Jackson cause to consider bumping him to starter.

The 5-foot-7, 223-pound Cartwright still may wind up getting the ball more than Canidate tomorrow, but Jackson said he doesn’t want to bench his season-long starter while he’s still recovering from injury.

“Obviously, [Canidate] was a little rusty last week and didn’t play as well as I think he’s capable of playing,” Jackson said. “And obviously, Rock should be rewarded because he played so well. But to make our team as strong as we can be, we need all our guys back there contributing. I don’t want to all of a sudden upset the apple cart by breaking the other guy’s spirit. I don’t think that needs to be done at this time.”

Complicating the Redskins’ decision is the status of starting fullback Bryan Johnson, who suffered a concussion last Sunday and missed much of practice this week. Johnson, the only other fullback on Washington’s roster besides Cartwright, did practice yesterday with a new helmet and should be ready to play tomorrow.

Johnson’s uncertain status left Cartwright bouncing between backfield positions.

“I’ve been running a little bit at fullback and at tailback all week,” Cartwright said. “If Bryan’s able to stay up, I’ll probably play a little more tailback. If he goes down, I’ll probably play fullback.”

Cartwright’s versatility has won him plenty of support within the Redskins’ organization.

“Rock has not exceeded my expectations,” Jackson said. “What he did last week was very surprising to many. But I witness it out here on the practice field, and I know he has that kind of ability. The thing I love about him most is that when you call on him, he responds.”

Notes — The Redskins offensive line faces one of its toughest challenges of the season tomorrow against the Carolina Panthers’ fearsome front four. Defensive ends Julius Peppers (last year’s NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year) and Mike Rucker (tied for the league lead with 11 sacks) will be matched against Washington tackles Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels, respectively.

“[Peppers] is a guy that’s got great athletic ability and good strength; it’s a tough combination,” Jansen said. “And you really can’t forget about [Rucker], because he’s got the most sacks right now. I think one of the main reasons they’re 7-2 is because of their defensive line.” …

Spurrier said the only injured players on the roster who will not be available tomorrow are Betts (fractured forearm), center Larry Moore (sprained foot) and cornerback Rashad Bauman (sprained ankle). Lennie Friedman will make his second straight start at center, and safety David Terrell will continue to serve as the Redskins’ third cornerback.

Morton, who missed last week’s game with a sprained ankle, will return kickoffs and punts and be available at tailback if needed. Safety Matt Bowen will start after missing the final three quarters last week with a concussion.


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