Newly hired Washington Redskins assistant coach Bill Arnsparger said yesterday he doesn't foresee suggesting any radical changes for the team's troubled defense. And Arnsparger, whose title is defensive specialist, said he doesn't expect his new role to make him or defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, a longtime friend, uncomfortable.
"I know Mike and he knows me," said Arnsparger, who is scheduled to arrive in town Monday evening. "I'm not uncomfortable, and I don't think he's uncomfortable. We know each other, and we've talked through the years. In some other situation where those things weren't true, it might be uncomfortable."
The Redskins hired Arnsparger, a longtime defensive guru with nearly four decades of coaching experience, because they have yielded 29.5 points and 433.5 yards per game this season. But Nolan said this week the answer is to get the defense to play better, not to make major changes in the lineup or defensive schemes. Arnsparger, 72, seemed to express similar sentiments yesterday.
"I don't see any drastic changes happening," he said.
The Redskins already have two defensive line coaches, Earl Leggett and Rubin Carter. But players said yesterday they're not worried about having too many voices to listen to, and are looking forward to Arnsparger's arrival.
"I don't know if he's going to have much to say on the field to us or what his role is going to be," defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said. "I'm looking forward to working with him. We have a lot of good players on this team [and] a lot of good coaches. I don't think he's going to try to stir things up too much. I think he's just going to try to help Mike and help the team."
Arnsparger said he first heard from Redskins Coach Norv Turner on Tuesday and, after speaking to his family and Nolan, accepted the job Wednesday night.
"It was a great shock to me," Arnsparger said. "It just came out of the blue. I had to think about it. I talked to my wife and family, and we talked again the next night. I talked to Mike Nolan. . . . I didn't want to put them off. If they needed somebody, I had to make a quick decision. As always, my wife said, 'Do whatever you want to do.' "
He never has worked with any of the Redskins' players, and he said he hasn't had a chance to see the team's game tapes of this season. But his crash course will begin soon.
"It's another opportunity to be successful," Arnsparger said. ". . . You stay flexible and get to know the coaches. You get to know the players. . . . This is an opportunity for me to be part of a great organization."
Rest for the Weary
The Redskins have the weekend off, and many rushed off the practice field yesterday to catch flights at Dulles Airport. Turner said he was pleased with what the team accomplished during its bye week, during which the players had Monday and Tuesday off before practicing Wednesday, Thursday and yesterday.
"There were a number of things we wanted to get done," Turner said. "We had some guys who were beat up. . . . We couldn't have asked for better timing for a bye. It allowed us to focus in on Arizona and look at some things as coaches. We've been going at it pretty hard since training camp, and this allowed us to catch our breath."
The players are scheduled to return Monday and prepare for next weekend's game at Arizona. Turner said he expects the players who sat out this week's practices with injuries, including tight end Stephen Alexander and guard Tre Johnson, to be ready to practice by Wednesday.