After grading film of the offensive line extensively for the last seven weeks, Joe Bugel believes tackle Chris Samuels is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Samuels came under criticism for his play last season after reaching the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2002, and Bugel maintains the lineman is back among the very elite at his position.

Samuels has been charged with allowing only one sack on the team's grades, and that came late in the second quarter Sunday against Green Bay when Pro Bowl defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila beat Samuels to the outside and tackled Mark Brunell. Beyond that, Bugel said, Samuels has played close to mistake-free football this season.

"Chris Samuels has given up just one sack this year -- last week -- and that upset him so bad he almost tore a new one on" Gbaja-Biamila, said Bugel, the Redskins' assistant head coach-offense. "He shut him out the rest of the game; that guy was nonexistent."

Samuels entered training camp with a chip on his shoulder, Bugel said, and was intent on proving he was still a top performer at his position. . . .

Right tackle Ray Brown just wanted to show he could still play in the league and, after being signed as a free agent in training camp, has rounded into form, Bugel said. Brown, 41, is in his 19th season and was signed to replace stalwart Jon Jansen, who underwent season-ending surgery after the first preseason game. Brown had not played right tackle for several years, and has the all-important task of protecting Brunell's blind side.

"Probably one of best pickups we ever made was bringing back Ray Brown," Bugel said.

Said Coach Joe Gibbs, "Right now, he's one of our MVP players."

A Real Stretch

A heated debate arose among the coaches as 1 a.m. neared Thursday morning. Gibbs made note of the superior stretching ability of defensive lineman Brandon Noble (6 feet 2, 299 pounds), while others claimed Brown (6-5, 318) was more flexible. After much discussion, the staff held a "stretch-off" between the players before Thursday's practice, seeing which player could do a split and touch his chest to the ground. Turns out both men could do so, although Noble appeared to find it more difficult.

"I was in absolute shock," Gibbs said. "I can't believe Ray Brown. Maybe that's why he's playing at 41 years old. We got in an argument, so I decided to settle it before practice. I hate to say, it's a tie. I told Brandon, 'Don't let me down.' And Brandon did work a little harder [to get his chest to the ground] . . . so I said, 'Way to go man.' It's a tie."

Barrow May See Action

The Redskins listed five players as probable for Sunday's game in Detroit: defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin), Samuels (ankle), cornerback Fred Smoot (shoulder), receiver Rod Gardner (hip) and Cornelius Griffin (back) and one player as questionable, linebacker Mike Barrow, who has missed all season with a ligament problem in his left knee. Those players practiced yesterday, and Barrow likely will be a game-time decision. . . .

Kick return specialist Antonio Brown, who was signed this week, likely won't play Sunday, Gibbs said, with running back Ladell Betts returning kicks and James Thrash returning punts.