- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

The first major cutdown day for the Washington Redskins produced no surprise departures and one unexpected addition.

Fourteen players were released yesterday as the Redskins trimmed their roster to 73. They have until 4 p.m. today to release one player to get to the league-mandated 65 players plus seven exemptions for those who played in NFL Europe this spring.

Among those cut were receiver Darnerien McCants and rookie linebacker Jared Newberry, a sixth-round draft pick. McCants never worked his way into coach Joe Gibbs’ favor, and Newberry became the first Redskins draft pick to be released since Gibbs’ return.

Meanwhile, veteran punter Chris Mohr was signed before yesterday’s practice; Tom Tupa was in Los Angeles to get a second opinion on his back injury.

The Redskins close the preseason Thursday at Baltimore. By Saturday at 6 p.m., the roster must be cut to 53 players. On Sunday, teams can assemble an eight-man practice squad.

McCants, who grew up in Gambrills, Md., and played at Delaware State, was a fifth-round draft choice in 2001. He made his NFL debut in 2002 and caught 48 passes and eight touchdowns in 2002-03.

When Joe Gibbs returned to the Redskins, he compared McCants to Art Monk and signed him to a three-year, $4.5 million contract.

But McCants fell behind when a shoulder injury limited his offseason work. He played in only five games and caught only five passes.

One of the deciding factors, though, was McCants’ lack of special teams experience.

“Right now, it was the best thing for the team,” receivers coach Stan Hixon said. “All the receivers have to be multitalented and play two or three different positions and also contribute on special teams. He was a lot better than he was last year. He just got caught up in the numbers.”

McCants had three catches in the preseason and worked on special teams but not at a level that made him nonexpendable. He announced his release on his Web site yesterday morning.

“There are going to be two or three teams probably interested, and it was better for him to get released this week than next week, and we made a decision to go in a different direction,” Gibbs said. “We felt like we had some other players that fit the role there and do a lot of things for us.”

Nine receivers remain on the roster, and the Redskins are expected to keep at least five. David Patten, Santana Moss, James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs are locks. Among the candidates, Kevin Dyson has the most experienced, but he doesn’t play special teams.

“The last two weeks of the preseason, it gets tough for us because there are only so many spots for so many players,” Dyson said. “I guess, numbers-wise, it looks better for me, but I feel I’m in the same situation I was in two weeks ago. I know I have to do everything on the field to make them want to keep me, but they could keep a younger guy who is cheaper and can be banged around on special teams.”

Special teams also played a factor in the release of Newberry and linebacker Clifton Smith.

“We felt like there were some guys ahead of him right now and all these guys out here, whether they like it or not, have to be good special teams players,” linebackers coach Dale LIndsey said of Newberry.

Smith had a good training camp last year before injuring his triceps and missing the season.

“Some guys are rising, some guys are falling,” Lindsey said. “Right now, I felt Cliff would progress faster from what I saw last year and this spring. I was hoping for more and didn’t get it.”

The departure of Newberry and Smith leaves nine linebackers on the roster.

Also released yesterday: Tight end Billy Baber, defensive back Charles Byrd, kicker Jeff Chandler, receiver Steven Harris, quarterback Bryson Spinner, offensive lineman Josh Warner, defensive linemen Charles Howard and Jerome Nichols and running backs Jonathan Combs, Dahrran Diedrick (injury settlement) and Brock Forsey.

Although rookie Andy Groom has punted well in the preseason, the Redskins are concerned enough about Tupa’s back that they summoned Mohr from his Georgia home.

Mohr, 39, has 1,152 career punts and kicked 10 years for Buffalo and the last four seasons with Atlanta. He was contacted by Minnesota and St. Louis earlier in the preseason.

“I’ve been punting twice a week and doing my normal workout routine that I do in the offseason,” he said.

Mohr became expendable in Atlanta when the Falcons signed kicker Todd Peterson and needed a punter who also could kick off. Mohr is also a holder.

“A lot of people here have spent time with him, and we felt like he was someone we needed to look at,” Gibbs said. “We’re trying to do the best we can to make sure we can make the right selection there.”

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