Coach Joe Gibbs said rookie Chris Cooley is slated to start at the H-back position when the Washington Redskins open their season Sunday at FedEx Field, capping a productive preseason by the third-round draft pick. Cooley, who was selected 81st overall from Utah State, has become a favorite target of starting quarterback Mark Brunell.
Cooley has been able to get downfield to catch passes and run through defenders and moved ahead of veterans Brian Kozlowski and Mike Sellers. The rookie said he has not been told by the coaches that he would start Sunday, but Gibbs said as much to the media yesterday.
"It's amazing," Cooley said. "It couldn't have worked out any better for me and I feel like I had a really good camp, I feel like I know our offense and I'm ready to play. It's going to be good for me."
Taylor Sits Out Sick
Starting safety Sean Taylor did not practice yesterday because he felt sick, but he should be back to practice Wednesday, Gibbs said. Taylor's absence was not related to the minor thigh injury he suffered Friday night, according to Bubba Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine.
Linebacker Mike Barrow, who has missed most of training camp with a knee injury, participated in some drills. Gibbs said he does not have a sense of whether Barrow will be able to play Sunday. Antonio Pierce has excelled in Barrow's inside spot in the preseason.
Left tackle Chris Samuels (sprained right ankle) and left guard Randy Thomas (neck) also participated in a few drills yesterday and will practice tomorrow, Tyer said. Both have been cleared to play Sunday.
Reserve linebacker Clifton Smith (elbow) and reserve safety Andre Lott (knee tendinitis) did not practice but should be back on the field tomorrow, Tyer said.
Roster Shuffle Possible
Gibbs said the team could sign a player or two by tomorrow when the Redskins reconvene for practice, but added that he feels good about the 53 players on the roster. Gibbs said the team is considering players with whom the coaches have first-hand experience. League sources said running back Lamar Smith is among the free agent possibilities the team is considering; final NFL cuts were made Sunday. The team is also weighing its options at cornerback -- the Redskins are carrying only four -- with veterans Terrell Buckley and Terrance Shaw, who played under assistant head coach-offense Joe Bugel in San Diego, available. . . . Several players have changed numbers. Offensive lineman Ray Brown is now No. 67, defensive back Ryan Clark is No. 25 and defensive lineman Demetric Evans is No. 92.
Practice Squad Is Set
Washington signed eight players to its practice squad yesterday, a group consisting primarily of undrafted rookie free agents. Defensive backs Rufus Brown and Garnell Wilds, who earned kudos from the coaches for their preseason performances, signed, as did running back Sultan McCullough, who appeared in one game for the Redskins last season. Wide receiver Gari Scott, who did well as a returner on special teams, also signed, as did offensive linemen Ben Nowland and Pita Elisara, and defensive linemen Ryan Boschetti and Nic Clemons.
Players on the practice squad can be put on the active roster at any point and those players are also available to any other NFL team and could be signed at any time as long as that team puts the player on its active roster.
"Certainly, some of them are going to get an opportunity to step up and get activated," Gibbs said. "They're going to have their chance."