- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs rewarded Chris Cooley yesterday for his preseason of steady progress by essentially naming the rookie H-back to the starting lineup.

Cooley, a third-round pick out of Utah State, “probably” will start ahead of veterans Mike Sellers and Brian Kozlowski in Sunday’s opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gibbs said. The decision followed Cooley’s strong showing in Friday’s 27-0 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

“To be quite truthful, we feel real comfortable there playing a lot of guys,” Gibbs said. “Going in to [the Bucs game], Chris will probably start.”

Said Cooley: “I feel completely confident. I understand that it’s a step up from the preseason. I’m going to take this step, do a lot of extra preparation and get ready to go.”

Cooley’s first preseason start came in the Falcons game. He caught two passes for 21 yards on the opening drive, which ended in a touchdown. On one of those receptions, he broke a tackle attempt by Pro Bowl linebacker Keith Brooking and used a shoulder to flatten safety Cory Hall.

“I think he’s proven he’s a pretty good runner after he catches the ball,” Gibbs said. “He’ll bounce off people and make things happen.”

Gibbs also lauded Cooley’s football intelligence, a trait that’s vital for the H-back. The position is a hybrid of the tight end and fullback positions, and the player must perform duties ranging from opening rushing lanes to catching deep passes.

Cooley, who finished the preseason with five catches for 69 yards, became the second 2004 draft pick elevated to the Redskins’ starting lineup. Safety Sean Taylor, the draft’s fifth selection overall, was promoted several weeks ago.

Barrow ‘not ready’

Middle linebacker Mike Barrow, who missed the entire preseason with tendinitis in his knee, sounds unlikely to play against the Bucs.

“He’s not ready,” director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said after Barrow tested his knee at practice. Barrow declined comment as he exited Redskin Park. Tyer refused to rule Barrow out, saying those decisions don’t need to be made until later in the week.

Barrow’s dour prognosis comes as little surprise, considering he suffered a setback in his rehabilitation Aug.23 and since has been proceeding with caution. Expected to start Sunday is four-year pro Antonio Pierce, who earned raves from coaches for his play this preseason.

Samuels, Thomas on course

Starting offensive linemen Chris Samuels and Randy Thomas moved a step closer to playing against the Bucs by practicing in a limited fashion. Both are expected to be full-go at practice tomorrow and play Sunday.

“I’m overexcited,” assistant head coach for offense Joe Bugel said of the development.

Asked whether the pair would play, Bugel replied, “No doubt about it. They work too hard not to play.”

Samuels, the left tackle, missed the Falcons exhibition after spraining his ankle Aug.27 at St. Louis. Thomas, the right guard, skipped the past two weeks after straining a neck muscle while lifting weights.

Extra points

The Redskins were unable to sign veteran defensive tackle Bryan Robinson, who was cut Sunday by the Chicago Bears. Robinson, who played in Chicago under former Bears coordinator and current Redskins line coach Greg Blache, signed a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins for about $1.5million, an NFL source said.

Washington did pick up linebacker Dominique Stevenson off waivers, according to a source familiar with the move. Stevenson, who was released by the Buffalo Bills, is known as an adept special teams player. Clifton Smith was cut to make room for Stevenson, who played in Buffalo for former Bills coach and current Washington assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams.

Gibbs said he would like to have any other personnel swaps done today so the team can devote its full attention to the Bucs tomorrow. …

Taylor sat out practice but not because of his bruised thigh. An illness had the rookie visiting the doctor. Tyer was optimistic Taylor would return tomorrow. Also sitting out was safety Andre Lott, whose knee injury isn’t considered serious. …

The Redskins filled their practice squad by signing eight young players released among Sunday’s final cuts: defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, cornerback Rufus Brown, defensive lineman Nic Clemons, offensive lineman Pita Elisara, running back Sultan McCullough, offensive lineman Ben Nowland, wide receiver Gari Scott and cornerback Garnell Wilds. …

The Cincinnati Bengals signed cornerback Rashad Bauman, whom Washington cut Sunday. Another recent Redskins release, wide receiver Cliff Russell, was added to the Bengals’ practice squad. Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis was the Redskins’ defensive coordinator when Bauman and Russell were selected in 2002’s third round.

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