The Detroit Lions did not file formal tampering charges against the Washington Redskins regarding the Redskins' interest in trading for now-retired running back Barry Sanders, an NFL official said.
According to league sources, Lions officials were upset about reports just before training camp opened that the Redskins were willing to trade a first-round draft choice for Sanders. League rules prohibit club officials from expressing interest in a player under contract to another team. The two teams had some trade discussions but the Lions indicated they didn't intend to trade Sanders, and would have had a difficult time doing so even if they wanted because of salary-cap considerations. Sanders decided to retire rather than play another season for the Lions, even with the league's career rushing record well within reach.
League sources previously had indicated it would be difficult to punish the Redskins because no team official ever publicly indicated an interest in trading for Sanders. Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of public relations, said the Lions filed no charges against the Redskins.
Aiello said a grievance filed by the Baltimore Ravens against the Redskins remains pending. The Ravens filed the grievance after their top marketing executive, David Cope, was hired by the Redskins.
Defense Set for Smith
The Redskins were ranked 28th in the league in rushing defense last season, and one of their most embarrassing days of 1998 came with their 31-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5. Dallas piled up 224 rushing yards, and two Cowboys running backs--Emmitt Smith and his backup, Chris Warren--surpassed 100 yards apiece.
The Cowboys had 156 rushing yards in their 23-7 season-ending triumph over the Redskins in Dallas.
The Redskins believe they've upgraded their defense significantly since last year, and they'll get an early chance to prove it in Sunday's regular season opener against the Cowboys at Redskins Stadium.
Smith turned 30 during the offseason, and precious few running backs in NFL history have remained productive into their thirties. There have been whispers in recent seasons about Smith slowing down, but Redskins defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said after watching films of the Dallas offense: "He has not lost a step."
Smith's blockers also are a major part of the equation, Stubblefield said.
"I consider them the best offensive line in the NFL," Stubblefield said. "It's a great challenge for us." . . .
Backup middle linebacker Fred Strickland emerged from yesterday's practice with a sore calf muscle, and trainer Bubba Tyer gave wide receiver Michael Westbrook some quick practice-field treatment for a tight lower back.
But the Redskins remain about as healthy as an NFL team could hope to be entering a season. Coach Norv Turner said he has been pleased with the practice-field progress this week of tight end Stephen Alexander and defensive end Kenard Lang. Lang missed the Redskins' preseason finale because of a sprained ankle and Alexander was sidelined for the last two exhibition contests by a sprained knee ligament, but both have practiced this week and are scheduled to be in the starting lineup Sunday.