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

said.

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

ankle.

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

here.”

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.