- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003


IRVING, Texas — Washington Redskins running back Chad Morton lasted a little more than a quarter in his first start since 2000, suffering a high right ankle sprain that could keep him out of Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Morton’s status is significant because he is Washington’s primary kickoff and punt returner. He called the injury “just a little sprain” and thought he had a good chance of playing against Seattle. Still, he limped out of the locker room in a walking boot and acknowledged that getting ready wouldn’t be easy.

“I’ve had sprains before, and it doesn’t hurt as bad as those,” Morton said. “I’ve just got to treat it night and day. I think I’ll be all right.”

Morton and fullback Rock Cartwright put up solid statistics as the tailbacks in place of injured Trung Canidate (ankle) and Ladell Betts (forearm). Morton averaged 6.2 yards a carry and Cartwright 5.5, but they combined for only 14 rushes.

“I thought our backs played hard,” left tackle Chris Samuels said. “I don’t know how many rushing yards we had, but we played OK. As far as lacking anything rushing, I wouldn’t say that at all.”

Morton topped a long post-game injury report. Also banged up were quarterback Patrick Ramsey (bruised left forearm, dislocated left pinkie), cornerback Fred Smoot (aggravated chest injury), linebacker LaVar Arrington (bruised knee, aggravated right wrist injury), Samuels (rib injury) and safety Todd Franz (sprained left ankle).

Smoot plays through pain

Yesterday’s game left Fred Smoot hurting, and not just because of the final score.

After sitting out the last two weeks with a bruised sternum, the Redskins cornerback returned to start alongside Champ Bailey. Smoot hadn’t had any football contact since he was hurt tackling Tampa Bay’s Keyshawn Johnson on Oct.19, but he delivered and received more than his share of hits yesterday.

“That’s something I learned about football: There’s no such thing as avoiding contact. Either you want the contact or you don’t,” said Smoot, who wore some extra padding on his chest to help alleviate the pain. “I was hurt, but I still wanted contact. That’s part of football. It’s a contact sport.”

Smoot twice needed medical attention after he took a hit and fell to the ground. He returned shortly after each break, and said he had no intention of sitting out this game and forcing safety David Terrell and rookie Ade Jimoh into uncharted territory.

“I didn’t blink,” Smoot said. “I know how the NFL is. If they see a rookie out there, Jimoh, they’re going after him. I had to rise up and play through it.”

Penalty problem persists

Two weeks off didn’t do anything to fix the Redskins’ problems with penalties.

Washington was flagged eight times for 57 yards against the Cowboys, increasing its season penalty total to 81. The Redskins are tied with the Oakland Raiders for most in the league and still on pace to break the NFL single-season record of 158.

Unlike in the past, the Redskins weren’t done in by false starts, but rather by a pair of personal fouls that directly contributed to Dallas’ second-quarter touchdown. Defensive end Peppi Zellner was tagged with the first, tacking on 15 yards to Troy Hambrick’s 3-yard run.

Then, with the Cowboys lined up for a 22-yard field goal attempt, officials called a personal foul on Antonio Pierce. Referee Larry Nemmers announced the linebacker was guilty of “jamming the signals,” which essentially means he was trying to distract Dallas’ players from hearing the call of the snap.

The penalty gave the Cowboys an automatic first down at the 2, and two plays later, Hambrick dived into the end zone for a touchdown.

Pierce claims he was only trying to tell his teammates to “get back” and not jump offsides.

“They said I said it three times, and I guess that was too many times,” he said. “I’ve never heard of that rule before. I’ve never seen it called in the NFL before.”

Cornerback Champ Bailey was even harsher in his criticism.

“I have no idea what the ref was thinking,” Bailey said. “I’d be surprised if he’s still reffing next week. It was a stupid call.”

Helton dispute

Coach Steve Spurrier denied an ESPN report that claimed he briefly fired offensive line coach Kim Helton after a recent dispute and that Helton subsequently said he quit. ESPN reported owner Dan Snyder had to intervene to smooth things over.

“I think that rumor started from the same source that said I was quitting a couple weeks ago,” Spurrier said. “I guess that’s part of the world we live in. But no coach is getting fired. I’ll tell you that right now.”

Helton, asked if it was true that he quit, replied: “I’m going to tell you something really seriously. And I’m going to be serious and fair and candid: I will die standing up before I quit.”

Russell makes impact

Defensive tackle Darrell Russell, who was signed on Wednesday, not only got on the field for more than 10 plays, he seemed to force a turnover which was credited to linebacker Jeremiah Trotter.

Russell, a two-time Pro Bowl pick for Oakland before he was suspended by the NFL twice for failing drug tests, hadn’t played since the second suspension began in December 2001. But after just two practices in 22 months, Russell swatted the ball away from Cowboys halfback Troy Hambrick at the Washington 31 with 3:34 left in the second quarter and Dallas leading just 7-6. Trotter recovered to thwart a potential scoring drive.

“I didn’t think I would be where I’m at, but it comes down to the same old football,” Russell said. “My wind is good. I just have to get back in football shape. That will just come with time and practice. It will take maybe another week, week and a half.”

House of horrors

After yesterday’s loss, the Redskins are 8-23 at Texas Stadium with defeats in 12 of their last 13 visits. Washington’s only victory in Dallas during that stretch came in 1995 when Heath Shuler led a 24-17 upset of the eventual Super Bowl champions.

Three Redskins suffered season-ending injuries during the 27-20 loss here last Thanksgiving. Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, now with Detroit, pulled a calf muscle; middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter tore ligaments in his right knee; and punter Bryan Barker had his nose broken in grotesque fashion. Trotter, whose seven tackles were second on the team, and Barker, who averaged 45.4 yards on eight punts, played well yesterday but obviously took little satisfaction in that.

“I was just anxious to get out there and make some plays,” said Trotter, who otherwise hasn’t missed a game because of an injury during his five-year career. “I wasn’t worried about coming back here because this is where I got hurt.”

Neither was Barker.

“That injury didn’t hurt my career at all,” said Barker, a 14-year veteran. “It was a total freak deal [coming in the aftermath of a blocked field goal]. I really didn’t think about it coming in here today. I’ve punted well here during my career. It’s a punter’s dream: 80 degrees and no wind.”

Tuna owns Redskins

Bill Parcells’ New York Giants dominated Washington like no other opponent during Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs’ Redskins tenure. However, before yesterday’s win the Tuna had lost both of his games against Washington with his other two teams. Parcells was 11-6 against Gibbs, including the 1986 NFC Championship Game, but was 0-2 against Norv Turner when Parcells coached New England and the New York Jets.

Chamberlain inactive

So much for Byron Chamberlain. The Redskins’ signing of the former Pro Bowl tight end officially crapped out when he was made inactive in favor of rookie Kevin Ware, who was promoted from the practice squad Friday.

Chamberlain had a rough game two weeks ago at Buffalo, and apparently didn’t do anything over the past two weeks to convince coaches to keep him in the lineup. Said Spurrier: “We just thought the other two guys outplayed him in practice.”

Chamberlain received a $200,000 bonus when he signed on Oct.6. Minnesota released him after he was reinstated from a four-game suspension for testing positive for ephedra.

Of course, Chamberlain isn’t the first Redskin to get a decent signing bonus this year with no return. Cornerback Alex Molden got $200,000 in the offseason but didn’t even stay beyond first cuts in training camp, while quarterback Rob Johnson was cut on Oct.22 after getting $250,000.

Washington’s other inactives were mostly injured players: cornerback Rashad Bauman (ankle), running backs Trung Canidate (ankle) and Ladell Betts (forearm), guard Dave Fiore (knee) and defensive tackle Martin Chase (calf). Also inactive was newly signed cornerback Calvin Carlyle. Wide receiver Cliff Russell was dubbed the third quarterback.

David Elfin, Jody Foldesy, Mark Zuckerman

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