- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Sean Taylor expressed surprise yesterday that he didn’t start in the Washington Redskins’ season opener, but the first-round pick said he understands why the coaching staff limited his playing time against Tampa Bay.

“I’m all right,” the rookie safety said. “I’ve never not been a starter. … I’m sure every player would like to play and [control] when they play and how they play. But the system isn’t set up like that. Coaches make decisions to better the team, and that’s the decision that was made.”

Taylor, who ascended to the first-string defense during training camp and had a standout preseason, was benched in favor of less heralded Andre Lott for the opener. A team source said earlier this week that Taylor saw less playing time because he hadn’t looked as focused or effective in practice, but coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday he has no concerns with Taylor’s study habits.

“No, that’s not it at all,” Gibbs said. “I think he’s been a very good student. There’s a lot to do up here, and this is his first year. We’ve been super-happy with Sean. He made a ton of great plays in the preseason, and I think he’s going to make a ton of them in the regular season. We’ve just got some real good players [in the secondary], and it’s about how we mix and match to get the most out of them.”

Taylor appeared on the field for only a handful of plays in Washington’s 16-10 win over the Bucs and was nearly burned for a touchdown by receiver Joey Galloway on his first professional snap. Taylor, though, apparently didn’t feel like he saw enough action to learn much from his first game.

“I’m not going to answer that,” he said. “Of course, it was an experience. But it wasn’t too much.”

Arrington, Hall banged up

Linebacker LaVar Arrington missed practice yesterday after suffering a sprained right knee early in Sunday’s game.

“I just took a bad step,” Arrington said of the play in which he got hurt. “I kind of felt it in the first quarter, and then it tightened up on me. But I was able to keep going. Hopefully, I can do it again this week.”

This latest injury comes just as Arrington is finally recovering fully from a left knee sprain during the preseason.

The Redskins are listing Arrington as probable for Sunday’s game against the Giants, and the Pro Bowl linebacker expressed confidence that he’ll be ready to play.

“It’s a little sore,” he said. “But I’ve got to work through it, push through it.”

Kicker John Hall also missed practice with a strained right hamstring, an injury sustained on Sunday’s opening kickoff. Hall managed to finish the game and wound up making three field goals, so the club isn’t worried about his status for this week’s game.

“We were concerned about it originally, but he bounced back and played good,” Gibbs said. “I think we’re OK there.”

Linebacker Mike Barrow, meanwhile, saw more action in practice yesterday than he has in several weeks. Barrow, who has yet to play in a game because of tendinitis in his left knee, remains questionable for this week’s game.

“We just want him to step up little by little by little,” Gibbs said. “We don’t want to rush it, but at the same time we’re anxious to have him back at full speed.”

Extra points

Wide receivers coach Stan Hixon is expected to miss his second straight game while he tends to his son, who is in a medically induced coma in a Tampa, Fla., hospital. Drew Hixon, a receiver at Tennessee Tech, suffered brain damage after a helmet-to-helmet hit in Saturday night’s game at South Florida, but Gibbs said his condition appears to be improving.

“It’s an awful thing that happened, but today they said was a better day, and I think Stan felt encouraged,” said Gibbs, who told Stan Hixon to stay by his son’s side. “I told him he needs to be in another place right now.” …

Retired Redskins defensive end Bruce Smith was in town yesterday to conduct a television interview with Arrington for the NFL Network. Smith, who last year broke the league’s career sack record, said he has no desire to come back after 19 seasons and is enjoying spending time with his family. “I’m done,” he said. “[Retirement] has been incredible from a physical and mental standpoint. I intend to make up for some lost time from those 19 years.” …

Linebacker Devon Lemons was signed to the practice squad. He takes the roster spot previously held by linebacker Clifton Smith, who underwent surgery yesterday to repair a torn triceps tendon. Smith will remain on the practice squad, but he does not count against the eight-man limit.

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