ASHBURN, Va. (AP) _ As if anyone needed more proof that the Washington Redskins are in state of virtual paralysis, the one-sentence fax from Redskin Park on Thursday said it all:
``The press conference scheduled for today with general manager Charley Casserly and head coach Norv Turner has been canceled.″
No reason was given, but none was really needed for the last-minute cancellation of the annual briefing on the eve of free agency. Until the sale of the team is completed _ which now probably won’t happen until March _ Casserly and Turner can no longer speak authoritatively about the future of the team and their every action must be approved by a faceless group of trustees who have no day-to-day presence at Redskin Park.
So, when the gun sounds to signal the rush for free agents Friday, the Redskins will be going nowhere. All of their players whose contracts have expired _ including Trent Green, Marvcus Patton, Leslie Shepherd and Corey Raymer _ will hit the open market and can be approached by any team, while the Redskins themselves have no immediate plans to actively pursue free agents from any other team.
``Under normal conditions, we could have reached a deal by midnight,″ said Glenn Schwartzmann, Shepherd’s agent. ``They would have loved to be able to do that, but obviously the circumstances have been a little bit complicated.″
As a result, the Redskins could lose their second-leading receiver, a substantial blow consider the future of their top receiver, Michael Westbrook, is uncertain because of a neck injury.
``We’re going to stay in touch,″ Schwartzmann said. ``We can only wait so long. Immediately teams are going to be visiting with us (Friday) morning.″
The Redskins remain in limbo as NFL owners consider whether to approve the sale of the team to a group headed by brothers Howard and Edward Milstein and Daniel Synder for a league-record $800 million. The trustees of the estate of late owner Jack Kent Cooke agreed to sell the team to the Milstein-Snyder group on Jan. 10, and three-fourths of the owners must give their consent.
The league’s finance committee has discussed the sale several times, but has made no recommendation to the full ownership. The committee’s next meetings are Monday and Tuesday in Atlanta, but a full owners’ meeting scheduled for Tuesday has been cancelled, meaning the sale almost certainly won’t be approved until the March 14-18 meeting in Phoenix.
Some owners have said they would have preferred that Cooke’s son, John Kent Cooke, purchase the team. But the younger Cooke was not able to outbid Milstein and Snyder in months-long action conducted by the trustees.
Meanwhile, the trustees still own the team _ and are requiring that the Casserly and Turner report to them before making any moves. Casserly specifically had hoped to reach agreement with Green for a new contract before Friday, but having to deal with the trustees has slowed down the process.
Green, who leapfrogged from career third-stringer to starter this season, is the one free agent Casserly has said the team wants to keep. The two other quarterbacks on the roster, Gus Frerotte and Jeff Hostetler, are both disenchanted with Turner. If the trustees approve, the Redskins will probably cut Frerotte by the end of the month to avoid paying him a $1.25 million roster bonus.
The Redskins feel they can live without Patton by moving Derek Smith to middle linebacker and starting second-year player Shawn Barber on the weak side. Raymer, a center, was the only steady presence on an injury-plagued offensive line this year, but he’s not expected to draw any major offers.
The Redskins other major free agents were not expected to return, regardless of the team’s ownership status. Tight end Jamie Asher had lost his job to Stephen Alexander, and free safety Stanley Richard never lived up to his $8.5 million deal during his four years in Washington.