Coach Hopes Competition at Punter Nets Improvement

By Paul Tenorio
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 4, 2008

Special teams coach Danny Smith said yesterday that the "timing was right" to select punter Durant Brooks in the sixth round of this year's draft, and that the team hopes competition between the rookie and incumbent Derrick Frost will bring about improvement in the punting game.

"In my mind, Derrick is in the middle of the pack in punting in this league," Smith said. "He is not a bad punter and he is not one of the elite guys. He is in the middle of the pack [and] you always try to improve your team. If we've improved our team, then we've done that and if not, we have a middle-of-the-pack kind of guy."

Smith said Frost's season generated the need to bring in competition, pointing to the playoff loss to Seattle as an example of struggles in the punting game.

"We punted nine times in the Seattle game and we didn't have an NFL punt," Smith said. "Everybody talks 4.5 [seconds of] hang time, if you go any lower than that and line-drive punts these premier returners will stick it right back down your throat. And we punted nine times and didn't get one. And that puts some pressure on your coverage and you can get beat up by that."

Smith said he had never recommended a team to draft a punter before but that punters do not come "dime a dozen."

"I think [Brooks] is a powerful guy and I think he has game," Smith said. "I think that is what made it different to draft a guy."

Smith also praised running back Rock Cartwright's season as a kickoff returner and reaffirmed that Cartwright is the team's top returner despite the signing of former Pro Bowl returner Jerome Mathis and the experience of draft picks Devin Thomas and Justin Tryon in the return game.

"Rock had a great year, he really did, and Rock is our kickoff returner," Smith said.

Smith laughed when discussing Tryon, the Redskins' fourth-round pick out of Arizona State, who boasted after he was selected that if he returned kicks the team's starting position would be at the 50-yard line.

"I'm not even going to make a comment on that because if it were to happen that he was back there then the other team would be looking forward to that game," Smith said. "If he was on another team I couldn't wait to play him, because I haven't seen that happen."

A Hall of Famer Visits

After practice, wide receivers gathered on the sideline around Hall of Fame wide receiver and former congressman Steve Largent, who was at Redskins Park to watch his former teammate, Jim Zorn, in his second day of practice as head coach of the Redskins.

"Nobody would know that he was in the Hall of Fame," Zorn said of Largent. "I went over and I told our wide receivers, 'You see the guy in that green shirt over there, he's in the Hall of Fame.' "

Several of the wide receivers expressed their excitement at getting an opportunity to meet the NFL legend, and said Largent told them he would be at training camp this summer as well.

"I congratulated him on the Hall of Fame and let him know I was watching him back in the day when I was coming up," Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said. Largent is "a Hall of Famer, I just wanted to say hey and commend him on the way he played the game."

Injury Update

Defensive tackle Kedric Golston (lower right ankle sprain) will not participate in today's practice and will be reevaluated Monday for offseason training activities. . . . Guard Jason Fabini was excused from the afternoon practice for a family event. . . . Safety Vernon Fox was held out of a portion of the afternoon practice after he had swelling in his left knee. Cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), linebacker Rocky McIntosh (knee), quarterback Colt Brennan (hip), safety Kareem Moore (knee) and tight end Tyler Ecker (groin) did not participate. Centreville graduate Steven Tate (Hofstra), who is a minicamp tryout, also did not practice because of a hamstring strain. . . . Rookie wideout Devin Thomas missed practice to attend his grandmother's funeral. Thomas was expected to return last night and participate in practice today.

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