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Monday, October 20, 2003
Spurrier backtracks on Sunday comments, still searches for answers


ASHBURN, Va. -- A day after he questioned his players' competitiveness and threatened to "go out on the street to pick up guys who will play hard," Steve Spurrier backtracked to his same old refrain.

"I don't have a lot of answers for you," the Washington Redskins coach said. "We should be much better than that performance yesterday."

Spurrier appeared ready to shake things up when he all but accused of players of quitting immediately after Sunday's 24-7 loss to Buffalo. On Monday, however, he was again at a loss to explain what happened and how he planned to fix it.

"Maybe that was an on-the-moment thought to get our guys' attention," said Spurrier, reflecting on his Sunday comments. "We need to change some people, but there's not a lot of changing we can do right now, to tell you the truth. If there is a spot or two, we possibly could do that.

"But this is our team. Somehow or other, we've got to get our guys excited to play again. That's the challenge we've got to do."

The Redskins (3-4) have lost three straight and four of five. Undisciplined play runs through the team like a disease, from Pro Bowl linebackers who overpursue to 73 penalties committed to the league-high 25 sacks allowed to the disintegrating chemistry from a group that was so harmonious during training camp.

"What's frustrating is we have so much talent this year," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "In years before, you could say they didn't have players at this position or this position. It's not true this year."

Yet, other than the usual "we've got to play our assignments much, much better," Spurrier offered only a couple of concrete changes that might be made.

First, in the latest effort to preserve Patrick Ramsey's health, Spurrier wants to eliminate protection schemes that have tight ends mismatched against defensive ends. Ramsey was hit at least 10 times Sunday and he had to leave the game early with a bruised hand.

Secondly, Spurrier really did bring in some guys off the street, at least in the NFL sense. Seven players had workouts Monday, but none could be expected to have any immediate impact.

"If there's one or two somewhere, or maybe one or two on our team, that need to play more, then that's something we're still looking at," Spurrier said.

There are signs that Spurrier isn't even on the same page as his offensive coaches. Spurrier hoped to give struggling rookie guard Derrick Dockery an occasional break Sunday, only to realize after the game Dockery had played nearly every down. It was Dockery's worst game as he committed two penalties and caused a turnover by knocking the ball from Ramsey's hands inside Buffalo's 5-yard line.

The defense, meanwhile, was fooled again by plays that involved a fake or misdirection: screens, draws and bootlegs. It was another sign of undisciplined play.

"We haven't been preaching it very well, so we're going to keep preaching," Spurrier said. "In college, it's easy to bench a guy for a quarter or half or something, then bring him back. I don't know if you can do that in the pros. Maybe that's an idea."

It's fortunate the Redskins have their bye this week. Ramsey is going to miss some practice time, while cornerback Fred Smoot and running backs Ladell Betts and Trung Canidate all need at least another week to heal from various injuries.

After that, the schedule is a horror movie. The next three opponents (Dallas, Seattle, Carolina) each are 5-1.

"We've got to take this week that we have off and try to improve on the things that have plagued us all year," Jansen said. "If we don't get better at them, it's going to bite us all year long."

Added an antsy Spurrier: "We're open for suggestions. We don't have all the answers."