- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Washington Redskins got back a potentially significant part of their defense yesterday when cornerback Walt Harris came off the physically unable to perform list and practiced.

Harris, who has 113 NFL starts, is considered the likely No.3 cornerback behind Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot. He underwent surgery in February to remedy chronic patella tendinitis and only now has emerged from the long rehabilitation of his knee.

“I’m just trying to get back into the flow of things,” Harris said after practice. “It’s been since February since I’ve backpedaled. But it was good to get in there and be a part of the team again.”

Harris, 30, actually was able to participate in all of practice, though his reps remain limited. He and club officials were eager to see how his knee would react.

“It responded very well,” Harris said. “It’s a little sore now, and I’m sure it’s going to be a lot more sore tonight. But we’ll see how it feels tomorrow morning. And that will let me see exactly where I’m at.”

Trainer Bubba Tyer commended Harris for his rehab. The success rate in such surgeries, in which part of the patella tendon is removed, is only about “50-50,” Tyer noted.

Harris signed a three-year, $4.1million contract in the offseason after starting for the last two years for the Indianapolis Colts. Rashad Bauman opened camp as the No.3 corner but has been sidelined with a hamstring strain. Ralph Brown was filling in.

D-Mac’s shot?

Coach Joe Gibbs indicated wide receiver Darnerien McCants will have a significant role even if there seems to be little opportunity for him at the moment.

McCants is buried as the No.4 receiver despite eight touchdowns on just 48 NFL catches. He scored again in Saturday’s 23-20 overtime loss to the Carolina Panthers, hooking up with Mark Brunell for a 61-yard reception in the third quarter.

“The whole game, to be truthful, he really stepped up,” Gibbs said of McCants. “There are some things there that we’ve been talking about with him. … It’s going to be very competitive there, but I think he stepped up and played well this week.”

McCants, 26, signed a three-year, $4.5million extension this offseason and was expected to reprise his 2002 role as the No.3 receiver. But the Redskins traded for James Thrash, who sparkled in the public portion of training camp.

Yesterday Thrash sat out with a tight hamstring, which isn’t considered serious. Regardless, McCants isn’t worried about the depth chart.

“Whenever they think I’m ready, I’m going to be ready,” McCants said. “I’ve proven that I can play.”

Spriggs on board

Tackle Marcus Spriggs officially joined the club and practiced. He replaces Brandon Winey, who hadn’t gotten on the field with an ankle injury and was released.

Spriggs underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery this offseason but believes he is in full health. As for conditioning, he joked that he is only in “midway shape” and said that is why he ran some extra sprints after practice.

The idea is for Spriggs to provide veteran depth in the wake of Jon Jansen’s torn Achilles’ tendon.

“How can you replace somebody like that? He’s a bookend tackle,” Spriggs said. “What I bring to the table is just a veteran who’s going to go in there and [give] blue-collar work.”

Extra points

An NFL source familiar with the league’s contract mechanisms said there is no way safety Sean Taylor will be able to have his seven-year, $18million deal voided.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus recently suggested the departure of Jeff Moorad, who led talks on the deal, from the agent business might provide Taylor grounds to void his contract. Rosenhaus, who hopes to renegotiate Taylor’s deal next summer, declined comment.

Taylor, who has had an outstanding preseason, continued to work with the second-string defense at practice, a club source said. …

If cornerback Deion Sanders returns to the NFL, as he reportedly is considering, the move will have nothing to do with the Redskins. Sanders retired from the Redskins in 2001, and Washington waived him in 2002 when he was interested in playing for the Oakland Raiders. He was claimed by the San Diego Chargers….

Running back Ladell Betts (hamstring) returned to individual drills. Defensive end Phillip Daniels (abdomen) continues to increase his work in practice. Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (groin) and return man Chad Morton (ankle) took days off but are considered fine. …

Gibbs liked the way Kenyatta Jones, Jansen’s current replacement, held up Saturday. Said Gibbs: “I think he’s taken it to heart. I thought [Carolina has] one of the best defensive lines in football, so they were matched up against good people. They did good.” …

The Redskins-Panthers exhibition scored higher local television ratings than the Olympics, generating an average 14.7 share to the Olympics’ 11.3. This weekend at Miami, former radio play-by-play man Frank Herzog will work the TV broadcast with Jeff Bostic.

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