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WP: A Case of Preseasonal Affective Disorder


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A Case of Preseasonal Affective Disorder

By Thomas Boswell



One of the most bizarre rituals in pro sport is the final game of the NFL preseason. Every team is primed for action in a week. The tension of final roster cuts and battles for key positions is still in the air. Testosterone is on overload. Yet, because the imminent regular season stakes are so high, nobody wants to put his body in jeopardy in the last of what Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier disdainfully calls "practice games."

Many star players, lest they be tempted onto the field by a sudden desire to play football, or help their teammates, don't even put on their uniforms, though they are in perfect health. A token appearance by a famous player in such games nearly merits a badge of honor.

Thursday night the Redskins' defensive leaders -- Champ Bailey, LaVar Arrington, Jeremiah Trotter and Bruce Smith -- were not in uniform to play the Jacksonville Jaguars, though they were not injured. Wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner, who played in high school against each other in this area, decided not to thrill any local relatives with their heroics. Do they need all the work they can get with Patrick Ramsey to polish their timing? Absolutely. Did they get even one minute of it here? No way. Instead, they just didn't dress. Trung Canidate didn't dress either.

If the Redskins had any less guys dressed, they'd be the Chippendales.

Yet, in just a week, the Redskins will meet the Jets -- a franchise with a genuine axe to grind against them -- to open the season. Last year the 89-catch Coles, kick returner Chad Morton, guard Randy Thomas and place kicker John Hall were core members of a Jets playoff team. Now, because of the wealth of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and, in some cases, the misjudgments of Jets executives, all those stars or stalwarts are Redskins.

Talk about a grudge match. Yet the Redskins prepared for this nationally anticipated feud by fielding a patchwork team on offense, defense and special teams. You can't blame them. It's the NFL norm. But what a mess!

"We just didn't want anybody to get hurt, I guess," said Spurrier, one of the most compulsively competitive people in sports. "Some of our coaches who have been in the NFL [for a long time], said, 'Coach, this game doesn't count.' So I went along with what they said" about which players to rest.

Still, the pure coach in Spurrier didn't seem pleased with the discontinuity involved in this NFL method. Asked if the Redskins, who were 4-1 in the 2002 preseason but finished 1-3 this year, were where they wanted to be, Spurrier snorted, "Noooooo. Hardly any team is where they want to be. . . . Where are we? I don't know. I don't know. Sometimes in preseason, you think you've got it going but you really don't. We certainly don't have it going. We have a lot of work to do. But this is a talented group that going to get a lot better."

The Redskins looked awful in their first two preseason losses. Every mental lapse, assignment gaffe and penalty that besmirched last year's 7-9 team was back on display. Spurrier was openly disgusted then. But last Saturday, the Redskins played crisply in clubbing the Ravens, 24-3. What a time for Last Exhibition Game Syndrome to strike.

The Redskins hoped to escape Alltel Stadium with some of that alert, precise play against the Ravens still intact. Instead, they got bogged down in a three-hour morass. Ramsey, on whom the whole season presumably hinges, got only one first down in his two brief offensive series as he completed 1 of 3 passes. Does his brief, ineffective appearance matter? Of course not. On the other hand, is it helpful? No, it's not. Being part of something this ugly can't be helpful to man or beast.

The Redskins trailed 14-3 by halftime, and, all in all, added nothing to the momentum they generated against Beltway rival Baltimore. The final Jacksonville margin of victory -- 17-15 -- was primarily a measure of the two teams' inability to separate from each other with so many of their best players "not dressed" or voluntarily sitting on the bench.

Again, this version of sloppy farce football -- at full prices for fans throughout the NFL -- is nobody's fault. If the Redskins had played to win, but suffered a serious injury to a key player, Spurrier would have been the laughing stock of the league. And with reason.

Still, if any team ever needed a "practice game" to mesh crucial new players into its systems, it's the Redskins. Both their offensive and defensive lines are in flux. A season-ending injury to defensive tackle Brandon Noble has forced the acquisition of Lional Dalton and Martin Chase. They're lucky if they know all the coaches' names yet, much less the plays. Yet the Redskins didn't have the luxury of using any coherent defensive personnel rotation with so many absentees.

Injuries to offensive linemen Thomas and Larry Moore have cut their preseason playing time. As a result, the center and guard positions have been a jumble from week to week. Was that the reason backup quarterback Danny Wuerffel was tossed around like a duffel bag by Jacksonville's defensive line in the second and third quarters? Or is it, perhaps, that the mere sight of Wuerffel, who has heart and brains but limited talent, inspires defensive linemen into sack frenzies?

It's a testament to Wuerffel's grit that he somehow generates statistics that, under the NFL quarterback rating system, look presentable or, as was the case here, even efficient. Wuerffel was 13 for 19 for 147 yards and one touchdown, in addition to those four sacks. Yes, heeeee's baaacckk.

Some teams occasionally find a purpose for these final preseason games. Thursday night the Jags were one of them. Entering the game, they didn't know whether $6-million-a-year Mark Brunell would be their starting quarterback or get released. In two series, he led one touchdown drive and, afterward, new Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio named him the starter.

After the game, in the middle of a crowded locker room, one Redskin hollered, "The exhibition season is over!"

"Right now we've got all our bullets in the gun and it's time to shoot em," said 11-year linebacker Jessie Armstead, who did play.

Now that the preseason has ended, the Redskins can, at least for a week, focus on all the optimism they feel, thanks to their offseason additions. Will Ramsey's potential be revealed? How good can Spurrier's offense be with quality speed at the skill positions? With improvements to the kicking game, plus all those gifted ex-Jets, are the Redskins ready to return to the playoffs?

Time will tell. Though Thursday night, as expected, certainly told nothing.

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Wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner, who played in high school against each other in this area, decided not to thrill any local relatives with their heroics. Do they need all the work they can get with Patrick Ramsey to polish their timing? Absolutely. Did they get even one minute of it here? No way.

Did, by any chance, Boswell notice that ALL of the Jets top three QBs, including Vinny Testaverde, didn't even play last night in their game against the Eagles?

Judging from this column, I think not. So how can he diss Ramsey for not working with the starting WRs when NONE of the QBs on the team we open the season with didn't even play AT ALL :rolleyes:

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Did, by any chance, Boswell notice that ALL of the Jets top three QBs, including Vinny Testaverde, didn't even play last night in their game against the Eagles?

Speaking of Vinny not playing...

He has only thrown 14 passes this preseason.

None to the starters.

I'm thinking he's timing may be bit off a week from now. Champ and Smoot better be on the ball. (litterally)

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I have a lot more respect for Boswell's opinion when it comes to baseball :)

Football he tends to state the obvious.

Multiple transitions equal more learning time. Which in turn means the Skins will be better in December than they are in September.

We got that on our own :D

But I question the philosophy of throwing Coles and Champ Bailey out there against JAX scrubs to gain more time with their new compadres..........

You lose one of these players in a preseason game and I guarantee you the Skins will be playing with a disadvantage in 2003 :mad:

As far as the new players go they DID see action.

Dockery played 3 quarters at a couple of spots. Friedman played the entire game.

Chase and Dalton played the second half on the DL.

in re some other players named in the article, what were the Skins supposed to do, play Randy Thomas and Larry Moore at less than 100% just to get 10-20 reps together against a defense that doesn't look to be very good? :)

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Kerry Collins, Jeremy Shockey, Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber all didn't play for the Giants last night but could have if it were a regular season game. Why should they play? The last week of the preseason has always been about the final roster spots and who assures themself of one. I am dreading the cuts come this weekend. I am hoping Charles Stackhouse stays but Finn may beat him out. I like Stackhouse better. I hope Fassel does too. Plus, I think Bryant may have won the starting kicking job over Hollis for those of you who like me, took Hollis on your fantasy team. :doh:


You are killing me with your sig!!! :drool: Is that Brittney Spears about to kiss another woman????

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