Redskins go long to play a friendly, visit Arizona
Like many of his Washington Redskins teammates, Derrick Dockery
shook his head when asked about this week’s game.
”Why,” Dockery said, ”couldn’t they come here?”
Better yet, why are these two teams playing at all? For the
final preseason game – the one that usually means the least – the
NFL’s schedule-makers are sending the Redskins to visit the Arizona
Cardinals on Thursday.
”It is a little unusual,” coach Mike Shanahan said,
”traveling that far.”
Not counting their American Bowl trip to Japan in 2002, the
Redskins haven’t had such a long journey for a friendly since a
game against the Los Angeles Raiders in 1992. For the sake of
convenience – and also because it’s cheaper – exhibitions are
usually held against nearby teams, if possible. Washington’s usual
staple of preseason destinations includes places such as Baltimore,
Jacksonville and Carolina.
The flight to Phoenix is the longest any NFL team will make
during the preseason this year and is longer than any the Redskins
will make during the regular season. In addition, a good chunk of
the roster will be flying 3,300 miles roundtrip just to stand on
the sideline, because Shanahan usually sits his starters, as well
as his top backups, in the final preseason game.
”It’s kind of like a bye week,” No. 2 quarterback Rex Grossman
Grossman hadn’t expected to play, although Shanahan said
Grossman might get the start before yielding to fellow backups John
Beck and Richard Bartel. Starting quarterback Donovan McNabb
wouldn’t have played even if he weren’t dealing with a sprained
The division of labor was stark this week. Players who won’t be
playing against the Cardinals had a different schedule that
included a head start on preparation for the season opener against
Dallas on Sept. 12.
”There are players on this team that are preparing for Week
One,” center Casey Rabach said. ”I’m looking at Dallas.”
For players further down the depth chart, however, this isn’t a
throwaway game at all. The final cuts are Saturday, when the roster
is slashed from 75 to 53 for the start of the regular season. This
is the last shot for anyone on the bubble.
”This game, of course, I’ve got a big mindset to go out there
and make some big plays,” said undrafted rookie receiver Brandon
Banks, ”and show the coaches what I’ve got and that I belong
So, while Dockery and other starters were at their lockers
Tuesday answering questions about the movies they plan to watch on
the flight, others were finding ways to deflect the tension that
comes as cutdown day looms.
”There’s no pressure playing football,” said Bartel, who has
been trying to make a regular season roster since 2007 and has been
cut by three other teams. ”There’s a lot of people unemployed
trying to provide for their families, that’s pressure. Whether or
not you’re going to play in the NFL, that’s not pressure.”
Notes: The Redskins cut LB Hall Davis, LS James Dearth, S Lendy
Holmes and OL Edwin Williams in the first round of cuts to get the
roster down to 75. Davis lasted only one practice after being
acquired in a trade from the St. Louis Rams for a conditional draft
pick that the Redskins will likely get back. Dearth’s release shows
the coaches are content to go with inexperienced Nick Sundberg at
long snapper, despite his struggles early in training camp.