- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 2004

He has had an ailing hip, a jammed finger and a big toe that hasn’t been right in more than a year — but he hasn’t missed a game. At 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, he’s scrawny even for a receiver.

Yet Laveranues Coles is a role model of what coach Joe Gibbs calls “a real Redskin.” In Washington’s 17-14 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday, Coles not only caught a career-high 12 passes but absorbed punishment like a sponge soaks up water.

On a 14-yard crossing pattern in the second quarter, Coles caught the ball a split-second before being hammered to the ground by Eagles safety Michael Lewis. Coles not only held on, he popped right up and signaled for the first down.

“Laveranues is very aggressive, making plays, catching balls, he doesn’t care where,” Gibbs said admiringly. “That’s what you like to see in a receiver. This game is about aggressive, tough guys.”

Later in the second quarter, Coles caught a short pass, took a shot from a would-be tackler, stayed on his feet and evaded two more Eagles before being pulled down after a 20-yard gain.

“You throw a little dump-off to L.C. and he gets 20 out of it and sparks everybody,” quarterback Patrick Ramsey said.

But it doesn’t surprise the Redskins, at least those on offense. While defensive end Renaldo Wynn made a point of thanking Coles after the game for the heart he had shown against the Eagles, guard Randy Thomas barely raised an eyebrow. A teammate throughout Coles’ five-year career with the New York Jets and the Redskins, Thomas knows the hard-nosed 26-year-old isn’t the warm and fuzzy type.

“It’s not like I thank L.C. for doing something he’s not usually doing,” Thomas said. “He’s always going across the middle. If L.C. holds onto the ball, he’s all right.”

Coles went to the Pro Bowl last year and has a lucrative contract, but unlike many of his counterparts at the NFL’s flashiest position, Coles is no showboat. His focus is victories, not highlight-reel catches. Right tackle Ray Brown, a 19-year veteran, paid Coles a major compliment by saying he’s tough enough to be an offensive lineman.

Coles’ teammates especially appreciate that toughness because they know he has played most of his two seasons in Washington with a fracture in a small bone in his toe that has become arthritic. That doesn’t sound like much compared to a sprained knee or a separated shoulder, but if a receiver can’t plant his foot properly, he can’t get the necessary push to speed by cornerbacks.

Coles’ toe responded well to a cortisone shot and four days of rest before the Eagles game, but surgery may be in order if it’s not healed by the end of the season.

The numbers say the toe has prevented Coles from being the downfield threat he was with the Jets (14.7 yards per catch, 13 touchdowns in 39 games) and in his first nine games with the Redskins (15.4 average, nine catches of at least 25 yards).

Coles has 109 catches in his last 20 games, but his average has dropped to 11.6 yards and he has just three grabs of at least 25 yards, none thrown by Ramsey.

While Coles is now fourth in the NFL with 76 catches, 12 tight ends and two running backs average more yards per catch. His only touchdown was on a halfback option toss from Clinton Portis. Not that receivers coach Stan Hixson betrays any disappointment in his go-to guy, whose failures to make plays downfield are emblematic of an offense that averages a league-low 9.8 yards a catch.

“It’s been a combination of a lot of things,” Hixson said. “Patrick came in [as the starter] halfway. Laveranues has been hurt. We’re a first-year staff with a new scheme. We’ll probably be more downfield, attacking next year.”

Until then, L.C. won’t stand for long catch as it once did.

Notes: — Cornelius Griffin was named Redskin of the Year by the Quarterback Club last night. The Redskins signed offensive lineman Dan Goodspeed, who has spent time with the New York Jets and Tampa Bay but has yet to play in a game since signing with San Francisco as a rookie free agent in 2000 out of Kent State.

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