The Washington Redskins won't fine punter Matt Turk for last month's incident in which he played recreational basketball with a finger injury, team officials said yesterday.
Some club officials suspected that Turk suffered or worsened his finger injury playing pickup basketball the day after the Redskins' victory at Arizona on Oct. 17. The team investigated the matter, and on several occasions Redskins officials discussed the possibility of releasing Turk but decided against it.
The club also has decided against fining the three-time Pro Bowler, team officials said yesterday.
"It's over," Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said. "It's done."
According to sources close to the situation, some Redskins officials continue to believe that Turk hurt his finger on the basketball court and perhaps violated his contract by doing so. But the team didn't believe that it had sufficient evidence for any disciplinary action to withstand an appeal by Turk via a grievance filed through the players' union, sources said.
Turk underwent surgery for a broken finger the week after the Arizona game and missed the Redskins' game at Dallas on Oct. 24. That day, one of fill-in punter Brian Hansen's kicks was returned for a touchdown by Deion Sanders in the Cowboys' 38-20 victory that. Turk also missed the Redskins' Oct. 31 win over the Chicago Bears at home after suffering pregame back spasms and was booed by the crowd when he had two poor punts in his return during a Nov. 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills at home.
But Turk has punted much better the past two games, averaging 46 yards per punt during the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and the win over the New York Giants. His average for the season is up to 41.7 yards per punt. That ranks him only eighth in the NFC, but his net average of 37.8 yards per punt is tied for second in the conference.
Other Redskins players were upset with Turk in the aftermath of the basketball episode. Veteran wide receiver Irving Fryar delivered a stern lecture to Turk at one point about his responsibilities to his teammates. Coach Norv Turner said yesterday that the best way for Turk to heal those wounds is to continue his punting revival.
"Kicking well is the answer," Turner said. "Matt had never really had a stretch here before where he'd had such a tough time. He's coming out of it now, and doing your job is what your teammates expect of you."
Westbrook Will Have Increased Role
Turner said yesterday he expects wide receiver Michael Westbrook to be more involved in the offense in the coming weeks.
Westbrook, playing with a cast over the broken bone in his wrist, had only one catch for one yard in Sunday's 23-13 triumph over the Giants. Tailback Stephen Davis did the heavy lifting, with 183 rushing yards. But Turner said Westbrook wasn't intended to be a decoy.
"I think he'll be able to do more," Turner said. "I think he would have done more this game, but the game just took things in a different direction. We were running the ball well. With the way he practiced, he'll be able to do more and more as we go along."
Davis was picked as the NFC's offensive player of the week. He is the first Redskins running back to win the award since Terry Allen in 1995. Quarterback Brad Johnson has won the award twice this season.