- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Yesterday’s deluge of rain threw a wrench into the Washington Redskins’ practice plans.

It also nearly left Laveranues Coles wrenching in pain.

The surprising afternoon cloudburst left the grass fields at Redskin Park unplayable and left a 10-foot-wide moat around the artificial turf field on the grounds. Coach Joe Gibbs still sent his players out for an abbreviated workout that presented plenty of challenges.

Coles got the worst of it. Trying to chase down a deep pass in the corner of the end zone, the Redskins’ Pro Bowl receiver couldn’t stop himself before he fell into the muck. The drenched Coles at first was a comedic sight, but when he walked back to the huddle with a noticeable limp, no one laughed.

Coles, who is attempting to play with the same fractured big toe that hampered him last season, appeared to aggravate it on the play, and he continued to move gingerly during the practice’s few remaining minutes.

Coles later said the toe felt fine and was able to talk about the play with a smile on his face.

“All I saw was the ball. Then, at the last minute, I saw the water coming,” he said. “By then, it was too late. I let the ball go to try to brace myself, but by then it was too late.”

That said, it was another reminder that Coles’ injury could be a lingering issue for the entire season. He chose not to have surgery during the offseason because doctors told him there was a chance it could end his career.

He also made it clear he doesn’t want to talk about his toe anymore.

“Once you get in a ballgame, it’s the last thing on your mind,” Coles said. “I don’t want to keep harping on it because it’s an excuse. Guys play with nagging injuries all year long. If it comes up and you all see me sitting on the bench and not playing, then that’s when you should harp on it. Until then, it’s a dead issue.”

New challenge for Gibbs

As much as Gibbs insists the game of football hasn’t changed significantly since his initial retirement in 1992, there are a few new wrinkles for the coach to learn, such as the league’s instant replay system.

Gibbs was around for the NFL’s old replay system in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the current system of coaches’ challenges is foreign to him.

So to help make his job easier, Gibbs hired a full-time rules consultant, Larry Hill, to advise him on such matters. Hill, a former league replay official who worked last year’s Super Bowl, will sit in the booth during games this year and help Gibbs decide when to challenge a call.

“He’s on staff with us, he’ll travel with us, he’s going to be in charge of all the officials here every day, he’ll fill out all the reports [and] he’ll be upstairs [during games],” said Gibbs, who is believed to be the only coach in the NFL to hire such an employee. “I think it’s going to be a real benefit for us.”

Meanwhile, members of one of the league’s officiating crews were at Redskin Park to fill in the players and media on rule changes and points of emphasis for this season.

Among the most significant changes are the addition of a third coaches’ challenge if the team was successful on its first two. Another permits head coaches to call a timeout from the sideline instead of relaying it through a player.

Points of emphasis this year include illegal contact by defenders beyond the 5-yard cushion from the line, defensive holding and illegal blocks from behind.

Extra points

Sean Taylor continued to work with the second-string defense yesterday, and assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams indicated the rookie safety will remain behind Andre Lott on the depth chart until he has grasped the Redskins’ scheme. Ifeanyi Ohalete, who started 15 of 16 games at safety last year, has been lining up with the third-string defense so far. …

Wide receiver Taylor Jacobs suffered a mild abdominal strain yesterday morning and was held out of the afternoon session. He’s listed as day-to-day.

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