No, Tony Green says, he is not in a slump, nor is he hurt or humbled by the wicked whacks he has taken in 10 games of high-speed collisions.
"Just because I haven't broken one (a kickoff or punt return) for a touch down in a while, I guess people start to wonder if somethings wrong," Green said yesterday. "But there's nothing wrong, really.
"Sure, I'd like to run one back some way or another every game, but I also know realistically that's just not possible.I'm just trying to give the offense the ball in the best position possible.And if I happen to break one , so much the better."
That is getting harder to do every week. After Green returned a punt 80 yards against the Eagles in the second game of the season, then went 99 with a kickoff in St. Louis the following week, both for touchdowns, the opposition quickly got the message.
"A lot of teams are atarting to squib kick on kickoffs away from Tony," said the special teams coach, John Hilton. "They try to hit it (the ball) to cur right side and let Ike (Forte) handle it.
"They're also cheating on coverage. They'll try to kick it to one side and run all their people over there, and we're had to make some adjustments to compensate for it."
In the seven games since he helped defeat the Cardinals with the longest kickoff return in the NFL this year, Green has had one 50-yard return, with no others longer than 30.
And while Green handled seven of the Redskin's first eight kickoff returns this season,he has returned only 11 of the last 22.
Green's punt returns also have been shorter, but for another reason, according to Hilton.
"The punters we've been facing lately, we've been pretty efficient at going after, trying to block kicks or cause bad punts.If a punter is having trouble, we've been trying to give them other problems to worry about.
"And when you go after a block, that's going to take away from your return. But we've also caused a lot of bad kicks - people are only averaging about 30 yards net punting against us - so we're still giving the offense the ball in pretty good position."
Despite all attempts to keep the ball away from him, Green still has managed to make himself a legitimate candidate for rookie of the year honors in the NFC by closing in one the 1,000-yard mark for punt and kickoff returns.
He has 824 yards, with six games to play, and the next five yards he gains, on returns or from scrimmage, will push him over 1,000 for combined offense (returns, rushing and passing yards).
"I really don't pay too much attention to that kind of stuff," Green insisted. "When I started the season, I never really set any goals, except to help the team any way I could.
"I don't consider myself the best return man in the league. There are too many great ones, guys like Rick Upchurch, Billy White Shoes (Johnson). I don't think I've reached their level; I really am still learning. There are so many variables, and every week you get another, different situation."
At the moment, Green is seventh in the NFL in punt returns with an 11.4-yard average and second in the league in kickoff returns with a 29.3-yard mark. Len Walterscheid of the Bears leads with a 30.4-yard average.
"I'm not concerned with what those guys are doing," Green said. "I'm just trying to seek a level of consistency, no peaks and valleys. That's what separates the good ones from the great ones."
Green also would like to see a bit more action as a tailback - he has 22 carries for 82 yards - but, he insisted, "I'd like to keep returning as long as they'll let me because I'd like to be a guy who can do it all.
"I'd like to be another Terry Metcalf, a guy who did everything and did everything well. And the longer you play, the more you realize how important the people playing up front are. I'm only as good as the guys who are blocking for me. They're the ones who make it work."