In the punting segment of Saturday's scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens, two of Andy Groom's kicks boomed more than 55 yards and had plenty of hang time. Only one of veteran Tom Tupa's punts traveled more than 55 yards. Tupa's placement was more consistent, providing his cover men the opportunity to make plays.

The results were similar to the way the former Ohio State punters have been kicking throughout training camp. Groom, 25, has a raw, powerful leg; Tupa, 39, excels in directional punting. It's a tight race that likely won't be decided until late in the preseason.

Groom set the Ohio State record for punt average, at 45 yards, breaking Tupa's mark. But Groom, an all-American in 2002, still is learning the nuances of punting.

Tupa, who was also Ohio State's quarterback, had a strong year last season although he tailed off late. Tupa ranked third in the NFL with a gross punting average of 44.1 yards while keeping 30 of his 103 punts inside the 20 yard line.

Coach Joe Gibbs revealed recently that Tupa's late-season slump was because of family medical issues of which the public had been unaware. Tupa, a 17-year veteran, confirmed yesterday his wife, Beth, learned she had cancer just before the season started.


Position: Defensive line.

College: Florida State.

Who He Is: Howard signed as an undrafted free agent in May. Howard played in all 12 games his senior year and tied for the team lead in sacks with five. He made 17 tackles and 71/2 for a loss his senior year.

How He's Doing: Howard is not as quick as some of the other defensive linemen, but defensive coordinator and defensive line coach Greg Blache said Howard has the physical tools to play in the NFL. On the other hand, "Tons of guys sitting at home watching TV have what it takes physically," Blache said. "The physical aspect is such a minute part of playing in the NFL. There's a lot of other factors much, much more important. The ability to be a professional, the ability to be a good teammate, the ability to handle all the things that are thrown at you and mainly the speed of the game, because the game happens so fast and happens so violently around you."

Chances of Making the Roster: It will be tough for Howard to make the jump from garnet and gold to burgundy and gold. He was a defensive tackle with the Seminoles and has had to adjust to playing defensive end. Blache said Howard has the physical talent to make the developmental squad but how he handles himself mentally and emotionally will decide if he can succeed in the league.


"I gave it a pretty good kiss. It was a lot of money, and I felt it was well worth it. I gotta tell you I was trying to suck a brick down there. I didn't mind those bricks, how dirty they were or anything else."

Coach Joe Gibbs, when asked about the tradition of kissing the bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Bobby Labonte won the race now known as the Allstate 400 in 2000, and Tony Stewart, who also drives for Joe Gibbs, won the race Sunday for his first win at the Brickyard.



Days until the Redskins take on the Bears at FedEx Field

-- Nunyo Demasio and Daniel Lyght