- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

The Washington Redskins yesterday took their first tangible step toward trimming penalties by having four referees monitor practice.

Coach Steve Spurrier said the refs, tapped from the Eastern College Athletic Conference, would be at Wednesday and Thursday practices for the next few weeks. He hopes their input will help reduce penalties after he shelved possible deterrents like fines and benchings earlier this week.

“I can’t guarantee anything,” Spurrier said after practice. “We’re trying our best. We thought we had it fixed before the last two games, but obviously we had not. It’s just our way of saying we’re trying to emphasize a little more that we want to play within the rules.”

Players tied a team record with 17 penalties in Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, giving them 35 for the season. Their pace of 187 flags easily would break team (122) and NFL (158) records for a season.

This isn’t the first time Washington has used referees during regular-season practices. It wasn’t unusual for former coaches Norv Turner and Joe Gibbs to have them monitor practices.

Spurrier and players reported modest results on the experiment’s first day. The coach mused that they “didn’t call as much as I’d hoped,” while left tackle Chris Samuels figured no penalties yesterday were two less than he had Sunday.

“I guess it did make a difference,” Samuels said with a laugh. “Actually, the refs did make a couple calls out there. Just keeping us aware of making the mistakes that we made. We’ve got to correct them at practice and keep our focus.”

Jacobs cleared

Wide receiver Taylor Jacobs received clearance from doctors to play Sunday after missing the first three games with a bruised pancreas.

Too bad his job is gone.

Although players often return to the depth chart with their former spots intact, Jacobs lost ground to blossoming Darnerien McCants, who solidified his hold on the No.3 spot with four catches for 67 yards and a touchdown, plus a two-point conversion last week.

In Spurrier’s mind, Jacobs, a second-round pick out of Florida, hadn’t done enough to earn any sort of long-term grasp on playing time.

“He never had a place, so he doesn’t have to worry about that,” Spurrier said. “He was always around the third to sixth receiver, somewhere in there. He’s still right in there.”

Jacobs also is behind veteran Patrick Johnson, who had two catches for 34 yards Sunday. Spurrier used a four-man receiver rotation in the first three games but now wants to keep guys fresher; in coming days, he’ll decide between Jacobs and Cliff Russell for Sunday’s final active slot against the Patriots.

McCants’ retention of the No.3 spot caps an impressive rise. His tall, lanky build (6-foot-3, 214 pounds) doesn’t seem to fit with traditional Spurrier wideouts, and some observers expected him to be cut in training camp following Washington’s overhaul of the position. Instead, the third-year pro out of Delaware State continues to show potential.

“The question mark is always on my head, but every year I come to the top,” McCants said.

Fiore sits

Just one Redskin missed practice: left guard Dave Fiore, who was resting his sore knee. Fiore also skipped practice last Thursday and Friday but didn’t have much difficulty playing Sunday. Yesterday he explained that he’s just flipping the rest days and work days this week.

“It actually feels better now than it did at this time last week,” Fiore said. “I’ll be fine for Sunday.”

Cornerback Champ Bailey worked out despite a slight fracture in his wrist. He wore a pad on his hand and tried to avoid too much contact.

The injury does not require a cast and won’t keep him from playing Sunday. But he is a bit concerned that it won’t heal until he gets some rest with the open date in late October.

“These things can be nagging all year,” Bailey said. “It’s not until the bye week before I actually start feeling some recovery. So I just try to avoid guys in practice. Hopefully this thing will heal quick.”

Tight end Zeron Flemister (Achilles) worked out in shorts in individual drills. He hopes to try to participate in a full practice today and play Sunday.

LaVar on Clarett

Linebacker LaVar Arrington had a stern message for Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, the underage player who is trying to litigate his way into next spring’s draft.

“I would imagine that every guy who plays defense would be gunning to get him,” Arrington said. “Just with all the attention that surrounds him. Just with all the stuff that goes with basketball players leaving high school and playing in the NBA. I think we take it personal. We take pride in that you have to be a man to play out here. Not no kid. We don’t let kids come out here and play with us. And they don’t last long if they do.”

Extra points

Defensive coordinator George Edwards wasn’t too hard on Arrington for chasing Giants quarterback Kerry Collins in overtime when he should have been covering fullback Jim Finn. Finn was open for a key 27-yard catch, but Edwards said players shouldn’t ignore their instincts.

“I don’t want to say he did [anything wrong],” Edwards said. “He could have read the play better.” …

Patriots coach Bill Belichick denied any ulterior motives in claiming former Redskins guard Wilbert Brown off waivers this week. Some around the NFL speculated that Belichick wanted to work Brown for tips on Washington’s offense.

“We put Mike Compton on injured reserve,” Belichick said in a conference call with Washington reporters. “Mike was a center/guard for us, and Wilbert is a center/guard. We’re just trying to win football games here — nothing more, nothing less.” … Belichick declined comment on accusations several weeks ago that the Redskins tampered while New England tried to get safety Lawyer Milloy to accept a pay cut. Said Belichick: “I don’t have any comment on that. That’s a league matter.” …

The Redskins officially re-signed offensive lineman Brad Bedell to replace Brown.

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