When Marvin Lewis became the Washington Redskins' defensive coordinator before the 2002 season, he was considered a future head coach because of his credentials. Lewis was one of the league's best defensive minds, an excellent motivator and organizer.

After Coach Steve Spurrier's Redskins finished 7-9, Lewis departed to become coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, Washington's opponent Sunday at FedEx Field. Under Lewis, the Redskins' defense was ranked No. 5 in the 32-team NFL. But Lewis is quick to note that he hardly regarded his tenure here as a one-year steppingstone to a top job.

"You don't take another job with the intention of being there a year," Lewis said yesterday in a telephone interview. "There was going to be no way to eliminate that [assumption]. Anytime your name is mentioned for any job, it becomes an uncomfortable situation.

"[LSU Coach] Nick Saban and [Iowa Coach] Kirk Ferentz are going through that now. Mike Shanahan goes through it sometimes. Sometimes it's not fair to you and your family, but there's no way to go around it. If people are cynical about that, they don't know me."

After Lewis left the Baltimore Ravens to join Washington, he signed a three-year contract worth almost $3 million. Lewis's quick exit led to similar questions about his replacement, Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach -- defense. Williams, whose previous job was head coach of the Buffalo Bills, has guided this Washington defense to the NFL's top ranking despite injuries to some of its top players.

"From the very first day I got here, I told the guys: 'I'm here for as long Dan wants me to be here," said Williams, referring to owner Daniel Snyder. "I can't say how many years, but I'm going to be here for quite a while.

"I've got kids in school that are more important to me than picking up and going around the league and coaching everywhere else. This organization needs continuity, and that's why they hired Joe Gibbs. And quite honestly, that was one of the things behind the scenes that Joe and I talked very long and hard about: the continuity between he and I."

Lewis said that uprooting his family was an overlooked factor that he had to consider in pursuing an NFL head coaching job. Late in the 2002 season, Lewis interviewed with Michigan State but turned down an offer.

"The ambition and the fire was there," Lewis said of becoming a head coach. "But I didn't wake up in the morning and think about it. When I told Michigan State I wasn't interested, that was a comment to stay where I was."

Williams agreed with Lewis that interest from other teams is out of an assistant's control.

"That's part of it," Williams said, adding that the coach can ultimately turn down an offer. "You would hope that people would recognize when you're doing a good job."

Clark Sits Out Practice

Starting strong safety Ryan Clark (shoulder) missed practice as a precaution. He is probable for Sunday's game. . . .

Backup cornerback Walt Harris returned to practice yesterday after being granted an off day Wednesday.