The Washington Redskins closed their most successful season in seven years yesterday amid some turbulence, as the future of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan remained in question and punter Matt Turk said he was eager to play elsewhere.
Nolan met twice with Coach Norv Turner, and the evaluation of his performance is expected to continue today. Meantime, Earl Leggett, 64, one of the team's two defensive line coaches, is expected to retire after 25 seasons in the NFL. Leggett's contract expires at the end of the season.
The status of special teams coach LeCharls McDaniel was not among the topics discussed in a series of meetings that dominated business at Redskin Park.
"We're still talking," Nolan said. "We're going to talk some more tomorrow."
Matt Turk left 15 minutes into the season-ending players meeting, climbing into a van that had been idling out front for at least 45 minutes. He said his frustration over a media report that he would be released was eclipsed only by his hope that it was true.
"I haven't been told anything yet, so I'm more or less hoping that what I read is true," said Turk, a three-time Pro Bowler. Asked if he hoped to leave the Redskins, he said: "Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. It's just the way this organization has treated me and the way things have gone. I'm really looking forward to a fresh start and moving on."
Turk has two years remaining on his contract, which the Redskins don't intend to honor. He could be released, or the team may explore his value in a trade.
Turk's brother, Dan, the long-snapper who will not be retained next season, did not attend the players meeting. In his brother's stead, Matt Turk offered an explanation for the botched snap that kept the Redskins from attempting a field goal that could have won their NFC semifinal against Tampa Bay.
"He told me, between him and I, the ball slipped when he was letting go of it," Matt Turk said. "What can you do? That's the way it unfolded."
Quarterback Brad Johnson said it was inevitable Dan Turk would bear the brunt of blame for the loss, right or wrong. "It's just unfortunate," Johnson said. "You never know if the kick would have been good or bad."
But right guard Tre Johnson sharply criticized those who cast Turk as the villain. "It wasn't Dan's fault we lost the game," Tre Johnson said. "That play could have helped us, but there were a lot of other plays throughout the course of the game that we should have capitalized on that would have put us in a better position to where it wouldn't have had to come down to that. . . . He didn't do a facet of his job. But a lot of us didn't--especially on the offensive side of the ball."
Wide receiver Michael Westbrook, disappointed in his own performance in the loss (one catch for four yards), said it was simply a fact of life in the NFL. "You practice all your life for a big moment, and you just, like, totally screw it up. Guys have been released because of things like that. It's unfortunate, but that's the way it is."
In the team meeting, Turner congratulated players on their 11-7 season and sought to send them off on an upbeat note.
But the question of job security--what center Cory Raymer called "the unfamiliar and un-fun part of this business"--was never far from anyone's mind.
"I'm still shaking," Raymer said, after meeting privately with Snyder about the team's interest in re-signing him.
Others were left to wonder about their status.
Wide receiver Albert Connell, a restricted free agent after the season, brooded about a report that the Redskins hoped to add a top wideout in the offseason.
"It's disappointing," Connell said. "It hurts. The numbers I put up this year? The way I played? And still talk of trying to get a receiver? I've learned to accept it. It's out of my hands."
Defensive players were unsure whether Nolan would be back next season. The defense ended the regular season ranked 30th in the NFL--27th against the rush and 26th against the pass. If Nolan isn't retained, former New England coach Pete Carroll would be among the top candidates for the coordinator's job, along with former Green Bay coach Ray Rhodes.
Safety Sam Shade, who led the team in tackles, gave Nolan a ringing endorsement.
"In the playoffs, I think we played just as good as any defense," Shade said. "I hope that'll mean something when it comes time to see who stays and who doesn't. . . . I tip my hat to him because he stuck with it and he was under a lot of criticism the entire year."
Redskins Notes: Defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson and defensive end Ndukwe Kalu are scheduled to undergo surgery in the offseason. Wilkinson will have arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. Kalu will have surgery on his left foot.
Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.