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BALT. SUN: Canidate not resting on approval rating as Redskins' choice


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Canidate not resting on approval rating as Redskins' choice

New starting running back knows he has lot to prove


By Edward Lee

Sun Staff

Originally published September 2, 2003


ASHBURN, Va. - Trung Canidate isn't satisfied.

When the former St. Louis Rams running back accounted for 232 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in his first NFL start against the New York Jets on Oct. 21, 2001, Canidate didn't sit back and marvel at his feat.

When the Washington Redskins obtained him via a trade with the Rams, Canidate didn't assume that he would be given the starting tailback spot among a crowd of unaccomplished contenders.

And when he was named the starter by Washington coach Steve Spurrier for Thursday night's NFL opener against the New York Jets at FedEx Field, Canidate still wasn't content.

"The main thing is, it's not where you start; it's where you finish," said the fourth-year pro from Arizona. "I'm just trying to make sure that I continue to grow and continue to get better, and then let the chips fall after that."

Team officials are hoping that Canidate can parlay his speed (4.25-second 40-yard dash) and pass-catching abilities into points for a young offense that finished 20th in the league last season.

Canidate's journey to the Redskins' fold is a classic example of the peaks and valleys NFL players can experience.

When he was drafted by St. Louis as the final pick in the first round of the 2000 draft, prognosticators predicted that Canidate would perfectly complement the prolific attack that already featured running back Marshall Faulk and quarterback Kurt Warner.

But Canidate missed most of training camp with a high ankle sprain. Then he sat out six regular-season games with a sprained foot and was lost for the final seven contests with a broken right wrist.

Canidate finally showcased his talents in 2001 when he rushed for 195 yards, caught three passes for 37 yards and scored twice against the Jets.

Although he fumbled twice against the New Orleans Saints a week later, Canidate rebounded by rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 11.

Canidate's roller-coaster ride took a precipitous drop last season. Questioned for his work ethic and labeled a fumbler, Canidate spent nearly all of 2002 behind Faulk and rookie Lamar Gordon on the depth chart.

"They were talking about getting me more carries and things like that, but it never came out," Canidate said. "Things changed, and you've just got to deal with things when they come."

So when Canidate learned he was being shipped to Washington, he viewed the move as a new beginning. He rededicated himself to improving his conditioning and joined former New York Jet Chad Morton and undrafted rookie Sultan McCullough as the only running backs who did not miss a single practice during the summer.

Although he only rushed 16 times for 57 yards in three preseason starts, Canidate scored two of the team's three rushing touchdowns and did not fumble. He sat out the last exhibition game.

Offensive coordinator and running backs coach Hue Jackson acknowledged that Canidate will have to shrug off the fumble label.

"He still hasn't played a regular-season game for us, so I think that's still something he has to prove throughout his stay here in Washington," said Jackson, who directs an offense that coughed up the ball a league-worst 20 times last season. "But I haven't been too concerned about it. It hasn't been an issue here."

Canidate's role in the Redskins' Fun 'N' Gun offense will involve running and catching the ball, but he won't be counted on to replace workhorse back Stephen Davis as the franchise's primary weapon.

That suits Canidate just fine. After a year of being counted out, he is looking forward to being counted on.

"My whole thing is, I'm trying to be productive," Canidate said. "If I can get enough touches in good situations to make some things happen, then it's up to me to make those things happen, and - the Lord willing - I will do that."

NOTES: The team signed quarterback Gibran Hamdan, wide receiver Scott Cloman, tight end Kevin Ware, defensive lineman Nic Clemons and linebacker Clifton Smith to its practice squad.

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