- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Washington Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith yesterday fingered coach Steve Spurrier for his benching in Sunday’s loss at Dallas, saying he was singled out as a scapegoat for the team’s recent struggles.

“I was told by Steve Spurrier that they wanted to try something different,” Smith said. Asked whether he felt singled out, Smith replied, “Yes.”

Replaced by Regan Upshaw at the starting right end position, Smith went on to say that he “absolutely” intends to get some answers before his chance to break Reggie White’s all-time sack record is gone. Smith needs to double his 1 sacks so far this season to tie White at 198.

“I want to know what their intentions are,” Smith said. “I have goals that I would like to achieve myself — team goals and individual goals. At some point in time in your career, you have to take a stand and be a little selfish.”

Upshaw signed a five-year, $7.5million contract this offseason to be the starting right end. But arthroscopic knee surgery forced him to the sideline at the start of training camp, and Smith held on to the job at the primary pass-rushing position.

Pass pressure has been a consistent problem this season, though Smith claimed his solid rush was hard to see with opposing quarterbacks getting rid of the ball and the interior line rarely generating any push.

Coaches have worked Upshaw increasingly in at right end after having him play mostly left end in third-down situations early on. On Sunday, Upshaw got his first start as a Redskin, though his first sack did not come.

“It was a lot of plays,” Upshaw said. “I had to tell myself to dig deep a couple times. I had some good plays here; I was rusty in other places. Overall I was proud of my effort. My technique needs to come a long way I feel.”

Told of Smith’s comments, Upshaw replied: “That has nothing to do with me. I just work hard. Those decisions are over my head. He’s a teammate of mine as well as the other defensive linemen, and I’m ready to go to war with all of them.”

Upshaw said he “supposedly” remains the starter. Spurrier said he was “sorry” Smith felt slighted and that the 19-year veteran could work back into the lineup if he outperforms Upshaw.

“Basically we thought Regan had played as well or better and deserved a chance to start,” Spurrier said. “Now the next game, I don’t know who’s going to start. If defensive coaches say Bruce played better than Regan yesterday, then Bruce will start.”

Washington’s pass rush is expected to improve with the recent signing of defensive tackle Darrell Russell. The club also could pursue defensive tackle Grady Jackson, who was released from New Orleans yesterday after violating a team rule. Washington tried to trade for Jackson during the preseason.

Morton, McCullough out?

The list of injured Redskins running backs continues to grow. Trung Canidate (high ankle sprain) and Ladell Betts (fractured forearm) already were on the sideline Sunday, and now they’re joined by Chad Morton and Sultan McCullough.

Morton, who made his first career start at tailback against Dallas, suffered a high ankle sprain early in the second quarter and never returned. Spurrier yesterday said Morton, who also serves as Washington’s primary kick and punt returner, is doubtful for this week’s game against Seattle.

McCullough, meanwhile, had a short-lived NFL debut. The undrafted rookie tailback picked up 9 yards on his only rushing attempt and also caught three passes for 13 yards, but he fractured his hand in the process and is unlikely to be ready to return this week.

That leaves the Redskins dangerously thin at running back, with only fullbacks Bryan Johnson and Rock Cartwright (who led the team Sunday with eight carries for 44 yards) healthy. Betts remains a long way from returning and isn’t expecting to play this week.

“More than likely, no,” he said. “They won’t even let me play until the fracture heals up, so it’s not even an option.”

Canidate, who has been out three weeks with his high ankle sprain, is more likely to return in time for the Seattle game.

“We’re running low on running backs right now,” Spurrier said. “But Trung Canidate should be back and ready to go this week.”

Other injuries

In addition to the running backs, several other players were injured during Sunday’s game.

Center Larry Moore sprained his right foot and was hobbling around in a protective boot yesterday. Moore was due to be examined late yesterday to determine whether he suffered any ligament damage.

Nose tackle Jermaine Haley, who already was playing with a cast on his broken right thumb, suffered a shoulder sprain and, according to Spurrier, is doubtful for this week’s game.

Linebacker LaVar Arrington bruised his shoulder but is expected to be fine, while the status of safety Todd Franz (sprained ankle) is uncertain.

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey, who was twice knocked out of Sunday’s game with a dislocated left pinkie and a bruised left forearm, had both injuries bandaged but proclaimed himself OK.

“I’m sore,” Ramsey said, “but it’s not anything that’s going to keep me from playing.”

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