Joe Patton's mental error in Friday's preseason game against the New England Patriots has cost him the starting job as the Washington Redskins' left tackle, at least for now.
Coach Norv Turner installed 11-year veteran Andy Heck in the spot for today's two-hour practice and likely will leave Heck there for Friday's preseason home opener against the Buffalo Bills.
"We had problems early with protection," Turner said. "I just thought it was appropriate to do, and we'll see how Andy handles it. I would expect it to be this way Friday night."
Rookie cornerback Champ Bailey also assumed starting duties today, a reward for his first-quarter interception that stalled New England's early momentum and helped the Redskins to their 20-14 victory.
Veteran Darrell Green returned to the lineup after idling since Tuesday, when he dislocated a finger in a practice with the Pittsburgh Steelers. And he wasted no time demonstrating why, at age 39, he remains among the best at his position, batting down a pass intended for wide receiver James Thrash on his first play.
Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson also practiced, having missed the last two weeks with a high ankle sprain. Wilkinson looked quick, crisp and focused, disrupting several offensive plays.
But after taking Saturday off, Redskins players and coaches put the good feeling of Friday's preseason victory behind them and got back to work addressing their weak points today. New owner Daniel Snyder, who arrived by helicopter, watched the workout from the field.
The team's chief concern remains at left tackle, the position charged with protecting the quarterback's blind side when he drops back to pass. Against the Patriots, Brad Johnson was sacked on the Redskins' fourth offensive play when defensive end Greg Spires charged toward him unmolested and dropped him for a seven-yard loss. Turner placed the blame on a mental error by Patton.
As a result, Patton was demoted to the second team. Third-string tackle Kipp Vickers also took snaps with the first team while Heck rested.
Patton declined to comment upon leaving the field. Offensive line coach Russ Grimm downplayed Patton's demotion, saying Heck was simply getting his turn with the starting team.
But Heck, acquired in the offseason after he was released by the Chicago Bears, has not proven the panacea the Redskins had hoped. He has not moved particularly well through the first three weeks of training camp, in which several pass rushers have had little trouble slipping past him.
"I've just been trying to knock some rust off from the offseason, learning the system as best I could," Heck said. "I'm going to make the most out of the reps I get. The preseason is a process, and we still have three preseason games to go and a lot of evaluating to go."
Working with the first team, Heck will face even tougher opposition, lining up across from defensive end Marco Coleman daily.
The Redskins' other area of concern on offense is wide receiver. Michael Westbrook has looked impressive in camp, but did not have a reception against New England. The wiry Albert Connell turned one of his two receptions into a 67-yard gain against New England, but was brought down by a defender and had to leave the game with a jammed neck after he was slammed awkwardly to the ground.
Connell was excused from practice today. Trainer Bubba Tyer said he was fine and would return Monday.
Turner said he would have preferred Connell not looked over his shoulder as he ran toward the end zone Friday, but stopped short of criticizing the receiver given the big play. "We're not going to get picky over a 67-yard gain," Turner said.
But even if Connell can stay healthy and Westbrook has the breakthrough season coaches have been waiting for, Redskins officials feel they need more depth at wide receiver.
Thrash stood in for Connell during practice today, but neither he nor Chris Thomas seems to have made a dramatic leap from last season. Moreover, the long shot coaches hoped would develop -- CFL veteran Nigel Williams, who at 6 feet 3, 217 pounds has a physical presence like Westbrook's -- has been erratic in camp.
Against New England, wide receivers accounted for just six of Washington's 16 receptions. Johnson completed only one pass to a wide receiver, with his other five distributed among fullback Larry Centers, running back Brian Mitchell and tight end Stephen Alexander.
What the Redskins would like is an experienced, steady veteran whom they can count on to make plays downfield. For that reason, they hope to coax Irving Fryar out of retirement. Fryar is appealing for several reasons: The Redskins would not have to trade anything to get him; he could be signed to a one-year deal; and he's considered a mature, grounded player, with neither ego nor attitude.
Turner said he was counting on Connell and Westbrook to stay healthy this season.
"If we need to improve ourselves there or give ourselves depth or get a guy that would help us there, yeah," Turner said, "we'd look at that."
Redskins Notes: Skip Hicks and Stephen Davis will alternate as starting running back during practice this week. Turner will name his starter for Friday's game later in the week. . . .
Turner will keep all three place kickers on the roster for at least another week, despite rookie Jeff Hall's missed field goal Friday. . . .
Fullback Mike Sellers did not practice today because of a strained calf muscle.