Washington More Than Red-Skin Deep
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) _ Ready to hear just how loaded the Washington Redskins are? Here’s a number that says it all:
The team’s projected backups _ the backups, mind you _ have combined for an astounding 1,145 NFL starts.
The list includes everyone from Darrell Green (248 starts) and Irving Fryar (201) _ past their prime but still going strong _ to Jeff George (117) and Jay Leeuwenburg (96) _ still at the peaks of their careers _ to Kenard Lang (36) and Greg Jones (23) _ former starters relegated because of infusion of star talent acquired in the offseason.
The Redskins have 15 first-round draft picks in camp, and only 10 are expected to start. At most positions, there’s a seasoned veteran ready and eager in case of injury. That second unit could probably win a game or two on its own if it had to.
``I don’t know if anyone addressed their needs as well as we did this year,″ coach Norv Turner said. ``I think we have a complete football team.″
To drive the point home, here’s Deion Sanders talking about George, the backup quarterback:
``Jeff is the man,″ Sanders said. ``I could talk all day about Jeff George. He is great. His arm’s unbelievable. When you’re playing against Jeff, you’ve got to cover (a receiver) for 10 seconds. You’ve got to even to cover that guy back to the huddle, because Jeff might still be holding onto the ball and he’ll just wing it for 40, 50 yards on a line.″
But if George is so good, why is he here? Why did he sign a four-year contract for a team with Brad Johnson, an established starter who went to the Pro Bowl last year?
George’s response: After years of so-so treatment elsewhere, he liked the Redskins’ candor _ they didn’t mince words and give him a false promise of a shot at the starting job _ and he also liked the Super Bowl-bound feeling willed by owner Dan Snyder.
``The difference between here and somewhere else is how they treat you,″ George said. ``As a player, that’s all you ask for, is loyalty and honesty. I haven’t had either one of those in my career, and I hope I’ve found that here.
``You ask any player out there, any coach, `Would you want to play for Mr. Snyder?′ I guarantee you he’s at the top of everybody’s wish list. You didn’t have to ask the free agents where they wanted to go. You just knew they wanted to be a Redskin.″
Leeuwenburg echoed the sentiment. Over the last three seasons, the 31-year-old guard has played for Colts and Bengals teams that finished 3-13, 3-13 and 4-12.
``It gets old,″ Leeuwenburg said. ``Going into my ninth year, I want to go somewhere where I feel like there’s a legitimate chance to win. It’s not just lip service.
``I feel they’ve been very up-front with me and very honest with me, which unfortunately in this business is a rarity. If the Skins came in and said, `We want you to be No. 1, we want you to beat out Tre Johnson, a Pro Bowler,′ then you know they’d be lying. I can start in this league. It just so happens that at this point, with this team, that I made the decision with my family to come out here and hopefully be a part of this special, special season.″
The Redskins aren’t universally deep. A team that hasn’t been able to stop the run for nearly a decade has very little experience backing up Dan Wilkinson and Dana Stubblefield at defensive tackle. If Andy Heck’s back doesn’t get better, then No. 3 overall draft pick Chris Samuels had better be solid for 16 games in his rookie year at left tackle.
For Redskins fans, the strangest sight at practice is watching 18-year veteran Green, Mr. Redskin himself, not answering the call when the first-team unit takes the field for a drill. Out of respect, Green is listed as a co-starter with Sanders on the depth chart.
Now that his second-string days are here, he’s pleased to report that it doesn’t feel as bad as he thought it would.
``It doesn’t sting,″ Green said. ``In my soul, in my mind, I am more at peace than I was as a young guy.″
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