Wide receivers Albert Connell and James Thrash were suffering from flu and sat out the Washington Redskins' practice yesterday at Redskin Park. But Coach Norv Turner said he expects both to play Sunday at Indianapolis.
"I'm not worried" about Connell or Thrash not being available to face the Colts, Turner said.
The Redskins' depth at wide receiver would be depleted severely if Connell and Thrash are at less than full strength Sunday. Connell starts alongside Michael Westbrook, and Thrash is fourth on the depth chart behind fellow reserve Irving Fryar. The only other wideout on the roster is Derrius Thompson, who has been on the inactive list for each game since he was promoted from the practice squad a month ago.
Thrash also has shared the Redskins' kickoff-return duties with Brian Mitchell in recent weeks.
Turner, as promised, yesterday placed guard Keith Sims on the Redskins' early inactive list for Sunday's game. Brad Badger is scheduled to start at left guard for the fourth time in six weeks in place of Sims, who has a sprained knee. The Redskins also placed fullback Larry Bowie, offensive tackle Jamie Brown and defensive tackle Barron Tanner on the inactive list.
Lang, Boutte Stay Upbeat
Defensive end Kenard Lang has handled being replaced in the starting lineup by Anthony Cook without complaint. Still, Lang says he plans to be a starter in the NFL again, whether it's in Washington or elsewhere.
"All the teams around the league have seen me on film on first down, second down and third down," Lang said. "They know the truth. They know what I can do. . . . I have no doubt in myself. I can be a starter anywhere I go."
For the past four games, Lang has played mostly at defensive tackle in passing situations while Cook, according to the team's coaches, has been a stabilizing force at left end.
"They're the coaches," Lang said. "They know what's best for the team to try to make us win. . . . At times, I've felt I've contributed. I haven't sometimes. I can contribute, but I'm not making any plays. I'm not making anything happen. . . . I just accept it."
Lang has not become a locker-room troublemaker since his benching.
"I want to make it to the playoffs," he said. "That's my main objective. . . . It's a team thing. I could easily have gone in the tank and said, 'Forget about you all. I don't want to play. I want to get out of here.' I don't have that attitude. I still want to play. That's the passion that burns inside of me every Sunday. I want to get on the field and make stuff happen. I enjoy playing." . . .
Lang is not the only Redskins defensive lineman who has accepted a lesser role without griping publicly. Reserve tackle Marc Boutte says he recovered from a strained abdominal muscle weeks ago. But he has been on the inactive list for six straight games, with the coaches deciding to go with Doug Brown to back up starters Dan Wilkinson and Dana Stubblefield.
Boutte, 30, is in his sixth season with the Redskins, but said this week he expects to be released or traded in the offseason. He was a starter in 1995, '96 and '97, but his role was reduced last season with the arrival of Stubblefield and Wilkinson. Boutte lost 30 pounds last offseason in anticipation of playing more this season, he said, but it hasn't happened.
"I'm trying not to get too discouraged about it," Boutte said. "We're playing well on defense right now, so I guess it's working. . . . When I watch other teams on film, scrubs are starting for them. I could start for most of the teams in the league.
"It's very difficult. But I'm an older guy. I can't walk around being mad. There are younger guys here who watch me. I have to lead by example. I can't be too vocal about it. I just need to sit back and see what happens."
Balance Is Best
Turner's play calling came under fire when tailback Stephen Davis had only three second-half carries at Detroit 13 days ago. Davis had a 50-yard touchdown run on his third carry last Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals en route to a 189-yard performance. But Davis's other 10 first-half carries produced only 19 yards, and Turner says Davis thrived in the second half in part because the Redskins also threw the ball effectively and kept the Arizona defense off balance.
"The whole key to this offense has always been balance," Turner said.