- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 14, 2008

On a day when Stump Mitchell replaced Earnest Byner as running backs coach and Sherman Smith flew back to Nashville, Tenn., to mull an offer to be offensive coordinator, the big news at Redskin Park involved a pair of players.

Cornerback Carlos Rogers likely won’t be healthy for the start of the season, but linebacker Rocky McIntosh will.

Director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said yesterday Rogers, who suffered an injury in the Oct. 28 loss to the New England Patriots, won’t return until September or October. McIntosh, who was injured in the Dec. 16 victory over the New York Giants, is expected back in July. These updates were contrary to what had been reported since the players were hurt.

Tyer said Rogers has made great strides in recent weeks and that it’s normally a 12-month recovery after tearing an ACL and MCL. Since McIntosh tore only his ACL, his recovery is expected to take six months.

Rogers’ prolonged absence makes the retention of high-priced cornerback Shawn Springs more likely, while McIntosh’s earlier return makes the signing of free agent linebacker Lance Briggs of the Chicago Bears less likely.

To hire Mitchell from the Seattle Seahawks, where he had coached running backs the last nine seasons, the Redskins had to give the former Morgan State coach a title of assistant head coach. Offensive line coach Joe Bugel also has that designation.

“Stump’s excited about coming to work here,” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said about the 48-year-old with whom he worked the past seven seasons. “He’s been a running back in this league [for the Cardinals from 1981 to 1989]. I know him very well. He’s an excellent teacher. He’s vocal. I think his personality will fit in on this staff. Stump has the capability of designing short-yardage and goal-line plays. He’s an excellent talent evaluator.”

Mitchell’s hiring signaled the end of Byner’s four-year tenure as running backs coach. Byner, the Redskins’ No. 1 back from 1989 to 1992, had coached a 1,000-yard runner in each of his four seasons under former coach Joe Gibbs.

“I’ve had a conversation with Earnest,” Zorn said. “He had a good outlook on the situation. He’s going to move on and try to find another team. He’ll land on his feet.”

Smith, 53, was impressed by his visit to the District but flew home undecided despite his close friendship with Zorn. Smith was the Seahawks’ first running back when the franchise started in 1976 and played with Zorn, the team’s quarterback, through the 1982 season.

“Right now my head says it is a great situation, but my heart is still not there yet,” Smith told the (Nashville) Tennessean. “I want it to be an agreement between both head and heart. But it was a great visit, spending time with Jim and that staff and seeing the players. They have a good team. I told Jim right before we left: I am more impressed with you now than I was before. What he wants me to do as far as coordinating the offense is basically do everything but call the plays. Organizing the game plan would not just be on me but the entire offensive staff. So we have a plan on how we are going to do it.”

But Smith plans to talk today to Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, his boss of 13 years.

“My head says, ‘You need to go do this. It’s a good team. It’s a good opportunity,’ but leaving the Titans and the relationships I have with all the coaches here, there is so much good stuff that I can’t forget about,” Smith said.

Zorn hopes for an answer by the end of the week but said he won’t pressure Smith.

“I have deep respect for Sherman, and he [does for me],” Zorn said. “He’s very comfortable there in Nashville. He’s just got to decide. I’m not going to pressure him at all. I never would. If he comes, I want it to be his choice, not because I’m hounding him and have got him in a headlock and am punching him.”

Zorn confirmed he will call Washington’s plays and said Smith doesn’t want that responsibility. Neither coach has called plays in his career.

Zorn, a quarterback for 11 years in the NFL and one in the CFL, coached the position most of the last two decades and is looking forward to working with Jason Campbell, who has been cleared to resume full activity two months after dislocating his left kneecap.

“I’m very eager to start working with Jason,” Zorn said. “The weather won’t matter if we can use [the Redskin Park basketball court] to work on footwork drills.”

Zorn said newly hired offensive assistant Chris Meidt will work with the quarterbacks when he’s unavailable.

“He’ll be able to speak my language to the quarterbacks, but I’ll be the teacher on and off the field,” Zorn said.

Note — The Redskins announced that ticket prices won’t increase in 2008. They have gone up just once since 2000.

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