- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

Laveranues Coles glanced toward the sky at Redskin Park yesterday and tried to channel a bit of luck into his right big toe.

“Right now, I’m just like, ‘Please,’” Coles said.

The Redskins’ top wide receiver wants to bid an overdue farewell to his toe’s stress fracture, which occurred three weeks into last season and still hasn’t fully healed.

The club has tried to fit Coles with protective devices and urge him out of offseason practices — the latter being the tougher chore — but a lot still hinges on the 1 months of rest he will get when veteran workouts conclude in two weeks.

“If it continues to go the route it’s going, which is getting better, and with the treatment they’re giving me, I’ll be fine,” Coles said. “I just hope it doesn’t return to its form last year.”

His toughness and statistics last season shrouded the significance of his injury. He started every game, finishing with more catches (82) than any Redskin since Art Monk in 1989 and more yards (1,204) than any Redskin since Henry Ellard in 1994.

These days he’s still not sitting out. As the Redskins yesterday concluded their third and final minicamp of the offseason, Coles was running routes with the rest of the receivers. Coach Joe Gibbs has found it difficult to keep Coles on the sideline.

“The thing I admire the most,” Gibbs said, “is it would take an ax to get him out of there.”

The Redskins need Coles in more ways than one. Last season he made the Pro Bowl as a first alternate and answered questions about whether he could succeed as a No.1 receiver. In Gibbs’ offense this fall, he will continue to draw the focus of opposing defenses and ease the burden on other offensive skill players.

But perhaps more significant to the Redskins is the unexpected bonus they got when they signed Coles to a seven-year, $35million contract, prying him from the New York Jets. Unlike a number of prima donna NFL wideouts, Coles possesses a sincere work ethic, a dedication to classroom work and a desire to lead by example.

“He’s a receiver who could be a star-type personality, but he’s not,” Gibbs said. “He’s a go-getter.”

The combination of talent and desire similarly has impressed new Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, who called Coles “one of the best I’ve been around” — a high compliment considering who (Jimmy Smith, Keenan McCardell, Andre Rison) Brunell has been around.

“Laveranues is right up there,” Brunell said. “Each guy has their own strength. Each guy has one thing they do that’s better than all their other attributes. I’m not sure if Laveranues doesn’t have more than one. I’m not trying to pump him up. I really believe that.”

Speed and toughness are the strengths of Coles’ game. He was most impressive on deep crossing routes last year, at times seeming as though he simply couldn’t be covered.

Still, Coles’ first season in Washington could have been better. He caught at least 100 yards of passes in the first three games but reached the mark just once afterward. And although he set an NFL record with at least five catches in 19 straight games (dating to his Jets tenure), he failed to dominate after injuring his toe. In the Dec.14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, he had no receptions.

As the Redskins’ season progressed, speculation mounted that his might end. But he was determined to finish the year.

“I didn’t want to be one of the guys that threw the hat in on the season, then be looked upon as somebody who quit,” Coles said. “I wouldn’t want anybody giving up on me. That’s just the way I am.”

Now his toe, while still not fully healed, feels good enough to make him optimistic he won’t face the same choice this season.

“It was bad, but now the staff has been taking very good care of it,” Coles said. “It’s not inflamed — I can move it. Last year, I couldn’t move it at all. It hurt just to walk. It’s a lot better than it was last year.”

Notes — Rookie safety Sean Taylor sat out practice with an eye irritation, the result of linebacker LaVar Arrington’s prank-gone-wrong. Taylor took a shaving-gel pie in the face from Arrington on Saturday, a well-intentioned joke that turned sour when Taylor began complaining he couldn’t see.

The first-round pick stood on the sideline yesterday wearing wraparound sunglasses to protect his eyes and afterward refused to comment on the incident. Arrington apologized, saying he didn’t intend to hurt his teammate. Gibbs said Taylor will be fine and should be back on the field when the Redskins reconvene Wednesday. …

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey participated fully all weekend and proclaimed his surgically repaired right foot 100 percent healthy.

“It’s been hurting me for so long, it just feels great to go out there and not have it be a factor anymore,” Ramsey said. …

Gibbs rewarded his players for a good weekend of work by giving them the next two days off before “organized team activities” resume. Veterans will break for the summer June17, with rookies and coaches wrapping up a week later.

Staff writer Mark Zuckerman contributed to this article.



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