The Washington Redskins released veteran offensive lineman Joe Patton yesterday. Patton was a starter for most of the past four seasons, but Redskins officials had grown increasingly unhappy with his play and work habits.

Place kicker Cary Blanchard and rookie linebacker Nate Stimson, the club's fourth-round selection in April's college draft, also were among the 14 Redskins cut yesterday. The team placed rookie tackle Derek Smith on the reserve non-football injury list and reduced its roster to 65 players a day before the NFL's deadline for trimming to that number.

Patton said as he left Redskin Park: "It was just time for us to part. . . . I'm very disappointed, but I'm not bitter."

Patton, 27, was a third-round draft pick by the Redskins in 1994 and started 54 of 64 regular season games the previous four seasons. He made 10 starts last season at tackle and guard, and began training camp this year as the starting left tackle. But he was replaced by veteran free agent signee Andy Heck following the opening preseason game at New England, when Patton missed a blocking assignment that led to a sack of quarterback Brad Johnson.

Coach Norv Turner and owner Daniel Snyder criticized Patton's play following that game, but Redskins officials said they didn't sour on Patton because of one play. Rather, they said, they never saw the kind of commitment they wanted from Patton even after signing him to a new contract with a $3 million signing bonus prior to last season.

"When you make that commitment to a player, the player knows he has to make the same commitment to you," Turner said yesterday. "That's what a number of my conversations with him have been about, the responsibility involved. At times he's been great with it. At times he hasn't. . . . We're being demanding. It's the little things that make a difference in winning a game in the fourth quarter and not winning it."

Patton said he had sensed since the offseason that his days with the team could be coming to an end.

"Every year, they tried to put somebody in front of me," he said. "They've been trying to do this for a while. There's no reason to get mad. The first thing I learned when I got here was the business side of this. This is a business decision. In my opinion, it's a dumb business move, but it was a business move."

Patton said he thinks the Redskins made the wrong choice in going with Heck, a 10-year NFL veteran.

"That's who they're comfortable with," Patton said. "They weren't comfortable with me. . . . I always knew who the better guy was. I'm stronger. I'm faster. I'm tougher. They were looking for experience."

He wished his former teammates well, but said of the new owner's disregard for him: "Snyder doesn't know everything he needs to know about this team yet. I'm not saying Mr. Snyder is dumb [but] that comment was dumb. He didn't know me."

Blanchard was the third of the three place kickers used by the Redskins last season, following Scott Blanton and David Akers. He went 11 for 17 on field goal attempts and 30 for 31 on extra points last season, and connected on a career-long 54-yard field goal that nearly provided a dramatic win at Arizona. But he and rookie Jeff Hall lost a three-way competition to Brett Conway.

"I'm a little upset about it, but there's nothing I can do about it," Blanchard said.

The Redskins had hoped when they drafted Stimson that he'd be a force on special teams this season and slowly work his way into the team's linebacker rotation. Team officials didn't have any illusions that Stimson, after playing defensive end at Georgia Tech, would challenge starting linebackers Derek Smith, Greg Jones and Shawn Barber for playing time. But they hoped he'd be further along than what they saw during training camp.

"You run this risk when you do a position change," Turner said. "It's been a tough adjustment for him."

Said Stimson: "When I got drafted, I was a little surprised. I got here for minicamp, and all the linebackers were young. . . . I don't have anything bad to say about the coaches. It's hard to change positions in the NFL."

REDSKINS CUTS

Pos. Name

WR Kevin Alexander

PK Cary Blanchard

RB Leroy Collins

P Travis Colquitt

CB Buddy Crutchfield

LB Matt Finkes

WR Junior Lord

WR Kenny Mitchell

QB John Paci

T Joe Patton

S Kevin Peoples

T Ozell Powell

LB Nate Stimson

DT Rod Walker