- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2008

Many of the Washington Redskins’ veterans had the afternoon practices off Monday and Wednesday because all of the work concentrated on special teams.

For safety Vernon Fox, those sessions are every bit as critical.

“Special teams has been a staple of my career,” Fox said. “It is the thing that has kept me around. There were two or three years where I didn’t play any defense, but it allowed me the opportunity to come here. I never take for granted what special teams has done for me. It has helped me pay the bills.”

Such is the life for Fox, who has forged a six-year NFL career and can’t let up for fear of not making it seven. Fox spent two years with San Diego, and started five games before the Chargers waived him and he ended up in Detroit.

Fox survived as a special teams standout with the Lions. He had one official tackle on defense in 28 games for Detroit, but his teammates voted him special teams captain and MVP in 2005.

After joining the Redskins in 2006, Fox started the final six games of the season. He racked up 42 tackles on defense — nearly half his career total of 90.

Last season was disappointing for Fox, as coaches again pushed him into mostly a special teams-only role.

“Just to start the year off, I got hurt on the opening kickoff and I missed a few games,” Fox said. “That was frustrating in itself, and then to come back and not be able to contribute on defense the way I really wanted to — it was a difficult year for me.”

This camp, Fox is fighting for a roster spot. The Redskins drafted a pair of safeties — Kareem Moore and Chris Horton — and signed free agent Stuart Schweigert to help fill in the depth chart behind starters LaRon Landry and Reed Doughty.

“I’m at a point now where whatever management does or whatever decisions are made up top, I don’t really let any of that bother me,” Fox said. “My job is just to come out and compete and give the best effort Vernon Fox can. Really, that’s all I can do. Every team I’ve been on has drafted guys and brought people in. It has been a battle for me since I’ve been in the league.”

Big names missing

Coach Jim Zorn said several starters are not likely to play Sunday in the team’s preseason opener against the Colts. Among the veterans who likely will not play in Canton, Ohio, are running back Clinton Portis, defensive end Jason Taylor, linebacker London Fletcher, tackle Chris Samuels and cornerback Carlos Rogers.

Zorn said he was uncertain whether linebacker Rocky McIntosh or defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin would see any action.

Several other key players are expected to miss the game because of injury, including Landry, running back Ladell Betts, wide receiver Devin Thomas (and probably fellow rookie Malcolm Kelly) and defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery.

Helmet mystery revealed

All of the rookies in camp have practiced for the past two weeks without logos on the sides of their helmets.

Zorn said they will have logos applied for the game Sunday — NFL rules mandate all head gear come equipped with at least one — but they will come off again for practice Tuesday.

He also offered up a rationale and a timetable for when the glorified stickers will become permanent.

“It will take him making the football team after that fifth preseason game. He has to make the football team,” Zorn said. “I just want those guys to have a sense that they’ve earned something. We give a lot to our players. We give them everything they need to play, and that is just something that is a symbol. It is symbolism of one of the things I want them to do to try and make this football team.”

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