- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

Washington Redskins right guard Randy Thomas returned to limited practice yesterday and expressed confidence he would be able to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I’ll be ready,” said Thomas, who tweaked his knee in last weekend’s loss at Philadelphia.

Left guard Dave Fiore, who missed the past two games with soreness in one knee, also was upbeat after practicing for a second straight day.

“As a precaution, I’ve just been alternating a lot of reps, trying to get a little bit of a break,” Fiore said. “I feel pretty good. I should be able to go [Sunday].”

Coach Steve Spurrier, though, remained cautious about both.

“I think they’ll be ready to play, but we’ve just got to wait and see,” Spurrier said. “That’s sort of a tenuous situation with both of those guys.”

Rookie Derrick Dockery started for Fiore the past two games, playing well against New England but struggling against the Eagles. He remains the top replacement for either guard.

The status of Washington’s interior line is particularly significant this weekend. Not only do the Bucs have one of the NFL’s best defensive tackle tandems in Warren Sapp and Anthony McFarland, they now have Sapp motivated by Wednesday’s inflammatory quotes from Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington.

Sapp has 72 career sacks but none this season, and he clearly will be gunning for quarterback Patrick Ramsey, the NFL’s most-sacked passer (17 times).

Coles near mark

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles is on the verge of setting an NFL mark for remarkable consistency, having caught at least five passes in 18 straight games dating to last season with the New York Jets.

No player since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger has at least five catches a game in 19 consecutive contests. Tied at 18 with Coles are Sterling Sharpe (Green Bay, 1993-94) and Jimmy Smith (Jacksonville, 2001-02).

In essence, Coles hasn’t had a lousy game since Week 3 last season, when he caught two passes for 14 yards. He dominated the rest of 2002 to earn a big payday as a restricted free agent, and he now is tied for the NFL lead with 33 receptions and ranks second with 513 yards.

Unaware of the potential mark yesterday until informed by reporters, Coles said he has been disappointed with his play the past three weeks (a span where he has 17 catches for 227 yards).

“Looking at film, there are a lot of areas I’ve got to make plays in,” Coles said. “I went to Coach [Spurrier] and let him know there was nothing he needed to say to me. I know I’ve got to pick it up.”

Coles is on pace for 106 catches and 1,642 yards, numbers which respectively would tie the team record of Art Monk and break that of Bobby Mitchell (1,436). But he said he wouldn’t necessarily be satisfied with a spectacular season statistically.

“I don’t look at it like that,” Coles said. “Stats can be misleading, honestly. You can have guys on teams that have 1,000 yards, but their teams [stink]. The most important thing is go out on a winning team and know that you’re giving it your all.”

Extra points

Defensive end Regan Upshaw was fined $5,000 for last weekend’s retaliatory late hit on Eagles tackle Jon Runyan, an NFL spokesman said. The flag that day propelled a crucial Eagles scoring drive in the fourth quarter. Upshaw has a track record of dubious personal fouls, including once spitting in an opposing player’s face. …

Spurrier said a focus in practice this week has been getting plays in and players up to the line of scrimmage more quickly.

“We’ve tried to speed up the huddle, try to get up there and talk faster, things like that,” Spurrier said. “We’ve had a couple guys flinch offsides today. It was a tight end though. We’re trying to play within the rules.”

Washington has committed 19 false starts, including seven last week. At issue is whether Spurrier’s system of frequent audibles contributes to the false starts. He reiterated that he has no plans to trim his audibles. …

Former college coach Spurrier goofed when looking ahead to Sunday’s game, saying, “Hopefully, we’ll be ready to play Saturday.”

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