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Redskins still at impasse with top draft choice

July 24, 1997

FROSTBURG, Md. (AP) _ Negotiations with Washington Redskins first-round draft pick Kenard Lang have come down to a matter of years.

Lang, the No. 17 overall pick from Miami, wants to sign for four years. The Redskins are offering a 5-year deal for $5.725 million.

Since there’s no such thing as a 4 1/2-year contract, someone’s got to give. As talks continued Wednesday, Lang’s agent, Arthur Sims, said it might be the Redskins who blink first.

``I got the indication that they would consider (a four-year deal),″ Sims said.

He and Lang prefer the 4-year option because of the possibility that the 2001 season might not have a salary cap.

Redskins general manager Charley Casserly refused comment, but sources indicate he’s considering how much money to shave off the total contract for a suitable four-year package.

Should Lang sign, it would lift some of the gloom that has descended on camp.

Given the problems along the defensive line, it only seemed appropriate that Wednesday morning’s practice took place in heavy fog, and the afternoon session was forced indoors by lightning.

And to top it all off, receiver Michael Westbrook, still limping from offseason knee surgery, was hospitalized briefly Wednesday with a leg infection. He’s on a heavy dose of antibiotics and will be sidelined at least three days.

While Westbrook was bedridden, defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was strolling onto the field and comparing the conditions to the 1988 ``Fog Bowl″ between the Eagles and Bears in Chicago.

Nearby, one of his assistants, Earl Leggett, was trying to run drills with a depleted set of lineman.

Leggett’s first unit consisted of two players, Dexter Nottage and William Gaines, who were backups on a team that ranked last against the run last year.

Leggett referred to Lang and another holdout, Sean Gilbert, as ``the guys that are out there on the street somewhere.

``I know they’re not working out,″ he said. ``They can’t say, `Boy, I’m really working.′ Heck, I know good and well they’re not working. They’re not learning any kind of football to help this team. That’s just kind of frustrating for a coach.″

Gilbert’s agent, Gus Sunseri, claims otherwise, saying the defensive tackle ``looks awesome″ at about 315 pounds as he sits out camp at home in Aliquippa, Pa.

Sunseri confirmed that Gilbert is asking for $5 million per year, but calls that a ``negotiating number.″

The agent also dismissed Casserly’s statement last week that ``Bruce Smith is being offered around $4 million per year (actually $4.4 million) by Buffalo, and Bruce Smith is the best defensive lineman in football as we stand here today.″

``What Bruce Smith wants is irrelevant,″ Sunseri said. ``What Sean wants is what he would have made on the free-agent market. ... The Redskins obviously are in great need of him. That need is only going to go up.″

Washington designated Gilbert as its franchise player during the offseason to keep him from becoming a free agent.

Casserly would not disclose what the Redskins are offering.

Neither side expects the holdout to end anytime soon, but the talks with Lang could be developing a sense of urgency because two veteran linemen signed during the offseason have been injured.

Chris Mims, touted as a possible starter if Lang doesn’t arrive soon, aggravated a knee injury Saturday. He’ll be out 2-3 weeks.

Keith Rucker missed the first few days of camp with a strained chest muscle. Not only is he overweight at 331 pounds, but he was stood up repeatedly by backup offensive lineman Darryl Ashmore in 1-on-1 drills Wednesday.

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