The Washington Redskins are sticking with punter Bryan Barker, although team officials worked out five punters, including veteran Lee Johnson, yesterday at Redskins Park.
Johnson, who spent 11 years with the Cincinnati Bengals and was with the Minnesota Vikings last season, was joined by youngsters Casey Roussel, Dirk Johnson, John Baker and Mike Malcyk at yesterday's workout, but none was signed.
Barker had punts of 12 and 33 yards from deep in Redskins' territory to help the Jacksonville Jaguars to 10 points during the Redskins' 26-7 loss this past Sunday. He is averaging 39.9 yards, down from his career average of 42.5. His net average (punt yards minus opponents' return yards) of 29.7 yards ranks last in the NFL and is way down from his career average of 38.2 yards.
"I'm not used to this," Barker said. "I was shocked [Sunday], I really was."
The 13-year veteran has had stints with Kansas City, Philadelphia and Jacksonville and was a Pro Bowl selection in 1997 while with the Jaguars. He signed with the Redskins as a free agent prior to last season and averaged 41.6 yards per punt and 34.8 net yards per punt.
Barker, 38, said he remains strong physically but is struggling with his mechanics, most notably his drops of the ball.
"The most important part about punting is the drop," Barker said. "I feel as strong as I've ever been. All week in practice and warmups, I'm kicking the heck out of it. But if I don't drop the ball well, even if a little bit, things are off. That's what happened on that first kick. The ball just slipped out of my hands. I'm pretty good at adjusting on it, but I wasn't able to adjust on that one. I hit the front of the ball, and it went right off the side of my foot.
"I've got almost 1,000 punts, and I think that's happened to me three times. . . . It's extremely frustrating. Hopefully, I just look forward to improving this week and moving on."
He called his performance in Jacksonville "embarrassing" but said he was not fretting about job security, even as he prepares to deal with the swirling winds at Giants Stadium on Sunday when the Redskins face the New York Giants.
"If I worried about that kind of stuff, I would not be playing the game today," Barker said. "I've been through this a couple times before in my career. In 1993, this happened to me, and I've played nine more years. If anything, it just gives me motivation to try to get out there and improve, find a way to get better. I'm not going to give up on the things that I've been doing. I'm just going to focus on doing some of the little things better than I've been doing them."
One factor working strongly in Barker's favor is that he is the holder for place kicker James Tuthill. Tuthill missed a 49-yard field goal in Jacksonville, but has made 9 of 11 field goal attempts and all 14 of his extra points this season. The Redskins don't want to risk disrupting Tuthill's good rhythm if they can avoid it, and special teams coach Mike Stock called Barker a "steadying" influence on the rookie place kicker.
Redskins Notes: Reserve safety Sam Shade said he still was awaiting the results of tests performed Monday on a neck injury. Shade said he originally suffered the injury last season and aggravated it during the Jacksonville game. The veteran has played mostly on special teams in recent weeks after losing his starting job at strong safety to Ifeanyi Ohalete. . . .
Wide receiver Derrius Thompson sprained his wrist against the Jaguars but said he intends to play Sunday.