After passing a physical, cornerback Walt Harris participated in his first full practice with the Redskins yesterday since being signed as a free agent. Harris, who missed minicamps and the first two weeks of training camp because of a preexisting knee injury, was placed on the active roster and said he may attempt to play a few downs in Saturday's game at Miami.
"I think it's kind of up to him and the coaches out there," Coach Joe Gibbs said of when Harris might play. "We wanted to get him out there and get him to start working, because he's made this great improvement. We're fortunate there. . . . We thought he could go as late as the regular season [to be cleared to practice], so it's good to get him now."
Harris, 30, spent the last two seasons in Indianapolis and signed a three-year , $5.075 million contract with Washington in March. He was originally selected 13th overall by Chicago in 1996 and was signed to provide insurance at cornerback, with Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs penciled in as the starters. Harris started 15 of 16 games for the Colts last season and suffered the third knee injury of his career. He set a career high with five interceptions in 1997 and will monitor his knee closely to determine how hard to push.
"It was great just being out there with the guys," Harris said. "That's the most important thing to me, just being a part of it. It felt good. I had a little soreness, but I was amazed just to be able to get through the whole practice. . . . We are kind of hoping to get in there [Saturday] and get some reps and get into the flow of things."
Bubba Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine, said there was only a 50-50 chance that Harris would be able to play again after having surgery on the tendon in his left knee, and has marveled at his progress: "He's a heck of a hard worker and very determined young man," Tyer said.
Offensive lineman Marcus Spriggs joined the team for practice after being signed by the Redskins. Spriggs worked out for the team last week, which led to his signing. Offensive lineman Brandon Winey was cut to make room for Spriggs on the roster.
Spriggs has NFL experience at both tackle and guard and has spent seven years in the league. He played two games for Buffalo last season before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury in November. The Bills originally drafted Spriggs in the sixth round in 1997, and he has started 18 games in his career. Spriggs said he is still rounding into game shape. "I'm in midway shape," he said. "I'm doing extra gassers after practice and trying to do all I can to get into the best shape I can be in."
"He has played tackle, which is good for us," Gibbs said of Spriggs, who had shoulder surgery in the winter, "and he gives us some added depth. We thought it was a good move."
Winey, 26, was signed as a free agent last August and played 11 games for the Redskins, starting three. He has been hampered by injuries throughout training camp and became expendable after Spriggs and Ray Brown, another veteran lineman, were signed in the last week.
Gibbs said he does not feel quarterback Patrick Ramsey's preseason struggles are related to any pressure to keep his job with veteran Mark Brunell now on the team. "I just think sometimes you're working hard trying to get in a groove and things don't work out for you," Gibbs said of Ramsey. . . . Place kicker John Hall was excused from practice to help his parents rebuild their home in Florida after it was hit by Hurricane Charley, which tore through the state over the weekend. He is expected back in a few days.