By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 23, 2006
In a season in which numerous Washington Redskins have played against their former teams, there will be no happy return to St. Louis tomorrow for safety Adam Archuleta.
Quarterback Mark Brunell threw for a season-high 329 yards Oct. 1 in a 36-30 overtime win against Jacksonville, the team for which he played nine seasons and led to the AFC title games in 1996 and '99. In the waning minutes of a 36-22 loss at Indianapolis on Oct. 22, the scoreboard at the RCA Dome paid tribute to Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington, whom the Colts drafted in 2000.
Defensive back Kenny Wright faced three former teams -- Minnesota, Houston and Jacksonville. Defensive end Renaldo Wynn played Jacksonville, the team that drafted him in 1997, and T.J. Duckett faced Atlanta, the team that traded him to the Redskins in August.
Archuleta, who was signed away by the Redskins from St. Louis for a record $30 million contract in the offseason, is different. His return represents something of an unhappy reminder of how a key offseason acquisition turned out to be -- along with the trade of two draft picks to San Francisco for wide receiver Brandon Lloyd -- the season's greatest personnel failure for the Redskins.
Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams made it clear that he had no plans to allow any degree of sentimentality to seep into his game plan. On Thursday, Williams was asked about Archuleta's return to St. Louis.
"He'll get some opportunities, for sure," he said. "Things I'll talk to him about. He's had a good week of practice."
Would Archuleta play at St. Louis?
"He'll be playing," Williams said.
Would Archuleta play with the defense, something he hasn't done in a month?
"He'll be playing," Williams said.
Archuleta declined all interviews to talk about tomorrow's game or the five seasons he spent in St. Louis, including his rookie year, when he started 12 of 13 games on the team that lost to New England in the Super Bowl. There was no reason, he said, to talk about a game he expected to watch instead of participate in.
"Adam's been around and understands things," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "I think he'll handle it really well, and I would think it's something where he'd want to play hard going back home."
Since Nov. 5, when Troy Vincent replaced him in the starting lineup against Dallas, Archuleta has undergone a swift and complete disappearance from the Redskins' defensive game plan. He has not played in regular pass-defense coverage since a 20-17 loss Nov. 19 at Tampa Bay. For the past month he has played only in the backfield when the Redskins are punting, acting as punter Derrick Frost's personal protector.
Even when Vincent was felled by a hamstring injury, Williams started Vernon Fox, whom the Redskins picked up off waivers. Fox has since become the starting safety alongside Sean Taylor.
Archuleta started the first seven games of the season, notching 42 tackles, which put him in the top three for the team in that category. But as the Redskins defense suffered, Archuleta seemed to embody the unit's deficiencies. Following the Tampa Bay game, Archuleta's agent, Gary Wichard, said he believed that Williams had made Archuleta the scapegoat. Archuleta hasn't played much since.
"It's got to be hard because when you leave a team you always want to prove to them that they were wrong for letting you go," cornerback Shawn Springs said. "But I don't know about that firsthand. I've never really been in that position."
Redskins Note: For the first time in his three-year Redskins career, Washington will miss a game, snapping a streak of 62 consecutive starts. Washington, who has inflammation on his right knee, last missed a game as a member of the Colts on Dec. 28, 2002, in the season finale against Jacksonville. He also missed the Colts playoff game vs. the New York Jets the following week.
"Obviously, he didn't work at all this week, and I think the guys are taking a long, hard look at that," Gibbs said. "We're going to have another session about what's best for him, but he will not play on Sunday."
Right guard Jon Jansen, who missed Sunday's game at New Orleans, practiced the last two days and will play against the Rams.