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Redskins, Courting Brown, Sign His Cousin

By Nunyo Demasio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005; Page D02

The Washington Redskins prepared for the arrival last night of defensive end Courtney Brown, after earlier in the day announcing the signing of his cousin, reserve safety Pierson Prioleau.

"It's a wild thing that took place," Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday of the bloodlines. "It was two totally separate situations."

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Prioleau (pronounced PRAY-low) played the last four seasons with the Buffalo Bills and is familiar with some of Washington's defensive coaches. He played for Gregg Williams, the Redskins' assistant head coach of defense who was the Bills' head coach for three seasons before joining the Redskins last year. Safeties coach Steve Jackson and special-teams coach Danny Smith held the same positions in Buffalo under Williams.

"They taught me a lot [to be] the player I am today," said Prioleau, who is 5 feet 11, 188 pounds.

According to a club source, Prioleau signed a three-year, $2.5 million deal, which included a $450,000 signing bonus.

Washington's starting safeties last season were rookie Sean Taylor and Ryan Clark, who started 11 games because of season-ending injuries to Matt Bowen and Andre Lott. The Redskins hope that Prioleau, who started two games last season behind Lawyer Milloy, will provide depth and contribute on special teams. But Williams heavily rotates his safeties, and Prioleau is expected to compete for the starting job with Bowen, who played well before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 5.

The Redskins acquired Prioleau largely to boost the special-teams unit, Gibbs said. Prioleau -- who has started 37 of his 81 career NFL games -- led Buffalo in special-teams tackles last year.

And, of course Prioleau's family ties to Brown don't hurt Washington's pursuit of the injury-prone defensive end. Prioleau and Brown grew up in Alvin, S.C., which has a population of roughly 1,000.

Can Prioleau persuade Brown to join the Redskins?

"I tried to get him to go to Virginia Tech with me, also, and he didn't do that," said Prioleau, who was a fourth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers out of Virginia Tech in 1999. "But, man, it would be special. I spoke with him. I understand the situation. Him and his family, his wife, they have to go through all the right decision-making."

Brown spent yesterday morning with the Denver Broncos, finishing his first visit since his release Monday by Cleveland. Brown flew into Washington last night, sources said, after postponing his visit to Redskins Park by one day.

The Redskins, who are $2.1 million under the salary cap, have a financial edge over Denver, which is about $1 million under. Brown -- who has gone on the injured reserve list the past four seasons -- is expected to be thoroughly examined.

"This guy is a very talented player," Gibbs said. "But he's had a number of injuries. . . . So I think anybody that would get him is going to check all the physical stuff and evaluate that."

Cleveland reportedly informed the NFL that Brown failed a physical before being released. But Washington showed its eagerness to acquire Brown by sending Gibbs and defensive coordinator Greg Blache to Cleveland on Monday night. They had dinner with Brown and his wife, Candace.

"We had a good visit," Gibbs said.

Last year, the Redskins were concerned with cornerback Walt Harris's right-knee tendinitis, so they signed him to a three-year, $4 million contract with a substantial portion tied to his health. By appearing in 15 games last season, Harris triggered an escalator clause to earn an additional $1 million.

Redskins Notes: The NFL announced the preseason schedule -- mostly with unspecified times -- including a nationally televised game between the Redskins and Pittsburgh Steelers at FedEx Field. Washington's preseason opener will be at Carolina between Aug. 11 and 15. Then the Redskins will play consecutive home games against Cincinnati (between Aug. 18 and 22) and Pittsburgh on Aug. 26. The Steelers game will be broadcast on Fox at 8 p.m. Washington's preseason finale will be at Baltimore on Sept. 1. . . . Gibbs spent most of yesterday morning making the sports-talk radio rounds. He appeared on five Clear Channel stations, taking fans' calls on some shows.

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