The Washington Redskins are planning changes in the aftermath of Sunday's 38-20 loss in Dallas, but they apparently won't be major ones. Team officials hope to sign cornerback Mark McMillian today, and they spent yesterday deliberating about which of the club's reserve defensive backs would be released if McMillian is added to the roster.
Another out-of-work former NFL starter, linebacker James Francis, is scheduled to join McMillian at Redskin Park today for a workout. The Redskins suddenly are thin at linebacker and are concerned about the injured knee of veteran backup Fred Strickland.
Meantime, club officials apparently have decided to give the team's punting job back to Matt Turk once the Pro Bowler's broken finger heals. Turk, however, may not be ready for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears at Redskins Stadium, and the Redskins will keep fill-in punter Brian Hansen at least temporarily.
Turk reiterated yesterday that he injured the finger before or during the Redskins' win at Arizona nine days ago--not playing recreational basketball the following day, as was reported last week. Coach Norv Turner said he has no information to convince him that Turk hurt himself playing basketball; and Turk said after meeting with Turner and director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato that the possibility of being fined had not been mentioned to him.
However, sources close to the situation said the Redskins still are considering fining Turk as much as an entire game check because some team officials suspect he suffered or significantly worsened the finger injury on the basketball court.
Hansen struggled on Sunday after being signed by the Redskins on Friday, but he'll practice with the team this week until the club knows more about Turk's status. Turk said he may have injured himself in warmups before the Arizona game, and he indicated that no one in the organization has confronted him about suspicions to the contrary.
"No one has had the guts to come to me and say anything about that," Turk said. "The people who are saying that are wrong, and they don't have the guts to come out and say it in the open.
"I've done everything by the book with this finger. I came to the park Wednesday and came out and caught snaps with it. I went out and practiced with it. I did everything I was supposed to do. I was willing to play. I was told to go get X-rays, and I did. I'm tired of talking about it. No one has come to me and said, 'You're going to be fined.' "
Turner said: "Right now, I have been given no information to indicate that Matt broke his finger any other way than in the [Arizona] game."
Turner and owner Daniel M. Snyder met for approximately half an hour in the team's locker room at Texas Stadium following Sunday's defeat, in which the Redskins missed an opportunity to build a two-game lead in the NFC East. Turner and Snyder emerged promising changes.
"This was a disturbing loss, and I don't think it's an overreaction to be upset about this loss," Turner said yesterday during his weekly news conference at Redskin Park. ". . . [Snyder] was very concerned, as I am and as my coaching staff is and as our players are--and rightfully so. We have set our standards high as far as being a good football team, and it's hard when you don't go out and perform at the level you'd like to. Now we have to go out and do something about it."
Turner said the team's focus will be on improving its third-down defense, and he indicated that club officials would spend last night and today deciding whether to release a player. If McMillian, who just was cut by the San Francisco 49ers after starting the first six games of the season, is signed today, the Redskins likely would waive cornerback Darryl Pounds, cornerback Tim Denton or safety Toby Wright.
"I don't know if moving people around a little bit, if there's a solution there," Turner said. "That's something we're going to talk about, if that necessitates someone going on the waiver wire."
McMillian, 29, has been a starter for most of an eight-year NFL career with the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and 49ers. Although he is 5 feet 7, scouts say he has sound pass-coverage skills. He probably would replace Pounds as the Redskins' third cornerback behind starters Darrell Green and Champ Bailey, with Pounds perhaps being moved to safety if he is not cut.
Pounds committed a costly pass-interference penalty in the fourth quarter Sunday, keeping a Dallas drive alive on a third-and-19 play from the Cowboys' 10-yard line. The Redskins had pulled to within 24-20, but Pounds's penalty helped the Cowboys continue a 93-yard touchdown drive and rebuild an 11-point advantage.
"He has struggled," Turner said. "He's had tough plays. That's one of the things we're going to look at when we look at the third-down stuff and what we're doing with those people. . . . Darryl played real well in the nickel stuff a year ago and we really thought he was making strides, and through the early part of the preseason he played real well. Since then, he's had a tough time."
Francis, 31, was released by the Cincinnati Bengals at the end of training camp after starting 129 of his 133 career games for them. The Redskins hope that starting outside linebacker Greg Jones, who has a hernia, can continue playing. But Strickland's knee injury is worse than team officials originally believed, and he could be headed for the injured reserve list. He underwent surgery last week.