- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

Sean Taylor will not be fined by the NFL after the league could not find visual evidence of the Washington Redskins rookie safety spitting on Cincinnati’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis had accused an unidentified Redskin of spitting on one of his players during Sunday’s game at FedEx Field. A source familiar with the incident, which occurred during an onside kick in the fourth quarter, later identified Taylor as the culprit and Houshmandzadeh as the victim.

Following the game, Houshmandzadeh got into a heated exchange with Taylor and called the first-round draft pick “a punk.”

The NFL reviewed tapes of the game, but a league spokesman said there was no clear evidence of wrongdoing. Though spitting on an opposing player is grounds for being fined, such accusations are difficult to prove because they have to be caught clearly on tape.

The Redskins played down the incident all week, saying they were not aware of it and yesterday sought to put the matter to rest.

“You know what, those are things that happen in a ballgame,” assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams said. “I didn’t see it take place. I’ve studied the film hard and I can’t find anything. Who am I going to believe? I’m going to believe my guy.”

Taylor has refused to talk about the incident, or anything else, with members of the media since his Oct.28 arrest in Northern Virginia for drunken driving.

Inanimate Rod

While attention on the Redskins’ struggling passing game has focused on the quarterback position, the effect on the receiving corps is just as staggering.

Take Rod Gardner, for example. The fourth-year receiver seemed poised for a breakout season after he hauled in a career-high 10 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns in Washington’s Sept. 27 loss to Dallas.

Gardner, though, has been virtually non-existent since. Over the last six games, he has only 11 receptions for 107 yards.

“Coming off [the Dallas game], I thought we had a chance of making something happen,” Gardner said. “But we slumped offensive-wise, we’ve struggled all the way around. It’s been difficult, but I don’t get down. I just keep fighting. Eventually, it’s going to get turned around. Something’s going to happen good.”

At his current pace, Gardner would finish the season with 49 catches, his lowest total since he was a rookie in 2001.

Ball Coach reaction

Redskins players were surprised to hear that ex-coach Steve Spurrier appears headed to South Carolina.

“I didn’t think he’d come back anytime soon,” said Gardner, who played a Clemson. “But I think it’s a good thing. He’s been a great college coach.”

Spurrier’s former players in Washington figured he would get back into coaching at some point, but most expected him to wind up someplace other than Columbia, S.C.

“I didn’t think it would be South Carolina,” linebacker Antonio Pierce said. “I knew he wanted to go to Florida. That guy likes the sun.”

Extra points

Cornelius Griffin missed practice for the second straight day with a hip flexor, but the defensive tackle remains probable for Sunday’s game at Philadelphia.

“Each day it gets better,” Williams said. “He claims to me he’s a fast healer. At this time of year, I begin to trust him with limited reps. So if Griff can get out there on the field, I’ll feel good about it.”

Cornerback Fred Smoot (shoulder) and Gardner (ankle) returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s session. Both players are probable for Sunday’s game. …

Evidence of the Redskins’ passing woes: The club’s quarterbacks have a 20.3 rating when attempting throws of 21 yards or more, worst in the NFL. Washington has completed just six of 35 passes at that distance, with no touchdowns and three interceptions.

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