Wednesday, August 27, 2003

When the whirlwind was done and Lional Dalton was feeling better, he couldn’t help but laugh.

“Today was a little rough, huh?” the Washington Redskins’ new defensive tackle said. “I picked a great day to come back.”

Heat-related symptoms notwithstanding, the Redskins thought it was a pretty fine day. The club completed a trade long in the works yesterday, moving a conditional low-round draft pick to Denver for Dalton, who in coming weeks could compete to start on Washington’s reworked defensive interior.

If he gets in shape, that is. Dalton, sidelined by the Broncos while they investigated potential trades, succumbed to the high heat and humidity at Redskin Park only hours after arriving. He participated in about half of the two-hour workout before getting light-headed. He eventually was carted away.

“I just had a long flight. I was dehydrated,” Dalton said about a half-hour after practice. “I didn’t eat lunch or breakfast today, so I came here on an empty stomach. I had some Gatorade. That was it. I figure I just need to hydrate myself more next time.”

Redskins coaches were unconcerned about Dalton’s problems with the heat and upbeat about working him into a rotation that includes Jermaine Haley, Bernard Holsey, Martin Chase and Del Cowsette.

“It’s kind of tough,” defensive coordinator George Edwards said. “You get off a plane, you go take a physical, and the next thing you know you’re lining up and getting 20-some reps. That’s a pretty tough day. But we know that he’ll be able to adjust, and he’ll get plenty of work this weekend. We’re excited about him and look forward to his progress.”

To make room for Dalton, the Redskins released defensive tackle James Cannida, who signed two weeks ago and was still getting into game shape. Dalton took Cannida’s No.95 jersey, which was worn from 1998 to 2002 by Dan Wilkinson, whose release in part triggered Washington’s search for line help.

The Redskins’ other five cuts as they trimmed to yesterday’s 65-man limit were cornerbacks Alex Molden, Lloyd Harrison and Wade Davis, tight end Leonard Stephens and defensive tackle Greg Scott.

The release of Molden was most surprising; the veteran received a $200,000 signing bonus in early May to compete for the No.3 cornerback spot. Instead, the Redskins will move forward with second-year corner Rashad Bauman and undrafted rookie Ade Jimoh. Edwards said he has been impressed with how the latter, a 23-year-old out of Utah State, has come along.

“He’s got a lot of man coverage skills,” Edwards said of Jimoh. “He’s slowly but surely has gotten good at running the zone coverages. We’re just pleased with the speed he brings to that position. We just look for him to continue to get experience.”

For now, Edwards’ starters on the interior line are Haley at nose tackle and Holsey at the “three-technique” defensive tackle. Both played well in Saturday’s 24-3 win over Baltimore and “clearly separated themselves,” according to defensive line coach Robert Nunn. But the others will be evaluated at both positions, each with the potential to start.

“We’ve got a lot of competition at a lot of spots,” Edwards said. “The thing we’re looking for is consistency. We’re going to get those guys on the field.”

The plan for the Sept.4 opener against the New York Jets, Nunn said, is to get a solid three-man tackle rotation to take most of the snaps. In later weeks, he expects to settle on two starters.

The compensation for Dalton was a seventh-round pick, which will be boosted to a fifth-rounder if he plays in 40 percent of Washington’s defensive snaps. The setup is similar to the Redskins’ compensation for Chase last week; in that, it was a seventh-rounder to New Orleans that turns into a sixth based on 40 percent playing time.

The thinking is that either Dalton or Chase will earn significant snaps and that the club ultimately will part with some combination of low-round picks. Ultimately, the Redskins viewed the compensation as fair to repair a position that lost Wilkinson on the second day of camp and starting nose tackle Brandon Noble to a season-ending knee injury Aug.16.

“I think we’ve got two new guys who give us some size on the defensive line and can stack at the points,” Cerrato said. “We’re finished now in the search for defensive linemen. We feel very good about what we’ve got.”

To help complete the deal, Dalton lowered his salary from $1.6million to $900,000, NFL sources said, with the opportunity to earn back some of the difference through incentives. The Redskins initially sought to have his salary even lower, which was what held up the deal.

Dalton was a bit mystified to have been ousted in Denver so quickly. Signed to a seven-year, $21million contract last offseason, he fell victim to a change in coordinators and the subsequent shift in system. Even losing 30 pounds, according to his figures, couldn’t save his job.

“I was a little surprised,” Dalton said. “The way I came into camp — they asked me to lose 10 pounds; I lost 30 pounds. I did everything they wanted, but it was a new coach, new scheme. They preferred a different type of player.”

Notes — The Redskins got a brief scare at the end of practice when Bauman clutched his hand in agony. It turns out he only dislocated his left pinkie finger. He will play tomorrow at Jacksonville. … Haley (sprained right ankle) will not play against the Jaguars. Cowsette will start in his place. … Linebackers LaVar Arrington and Jeremiah Trotter will not play as they rest a mild knee sprain and a rehabilitating knee, respectively. Arrington said his injury is “not that big a deal.”

• Staff writer Mark Zuckerman contributed to this report.

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