Punter Tom Tupa confirmed yesterday that his wife, Beth, learned she had cancer just before last season. During the season, Tupa traveled back and forth to Cleveland, where his wife was undergoing treatment. Tupa said his wife has been better since March after receiving treatment.

"Everything turned out great," Tupa, who suffered chest pains late last season, said after practice.

Tupa praised the Redskins organization, particularly Coach Joe Gibbs and special teams coach Danny Smith, for accommodating him during his family crisis.

"Obviously, it was hard. You have a lot of things going on in your mind," Tupa said. "But Coach Gibbs and Danny Smith were great about giving me time to be with her. I went to all her treatments and surgeries and all that. They gave me a lot of time, and that helped a lot."

Tight End Competition

During training camp last year, the Redskins sometimes used Mike Sellers at blocking tight end before having him focus at H-back because of the complexity of Gibbs's offense. During the season, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Sellers was most valuable on special teams, finishing second on the unit in tackles while also contributing as a fullback in goal-line situations.

In this training camp, Sellers is competing with Robert Royal at pure tight end.

"I'm finding my fit in that tight end [spot], and it's working out well for me," Sellers said. "I love to block. I love the physicalness of it. It takes a certain type of person who loves to block, and I'm one of those guys."

Last season, Royal scored four touchdowns on eight receptions. Royal's forte, while he is a solid blocker, has been pass catching. But the Redskins want the 6-4, 257-pound Royal to increase his strength, and coaches prefer a blocking tight end who excels in run blocking.

"This year, we just zeroed in and said, 'All right, you're going to just learn the Y position [pure blocking tight end],' " tight ends coach Rennie Simmons said of Sellers, who caught only one pass as an H-back last season. " 'Take care of your special teams duties.' And he's been doing a very good job. He gives us a good power blocker there. He's still quick enough to do a pretty good job in the passing game, too.

"Last year, his problem was he didn't have the experience with our offense. And we probably tried to put too much on his plate."

The Redskins also have experimented with using center Lennie Friedman at blocking tight end. The Redskins like Friedman's savvy and athletic ability at 6-3, 283 pounds.

"You're out there on the edge," Friedman said. "I'm always used to being interior with guys next to me."

Yesterday, the Redskins announced the signing of tight end Robert Johnson after releasing 6-3, 259-pound Billy Palmer, an undrafted rookie from Notre Dame who was a long shot to make the squad. Johnson, who made his first NFL appearance with the Chicago Bears in 2003, is considered a good pass catcher and solid blocker at 6-6, 278 pounds.

Penalty Breakdowns

Last season, the Redskins committed the second-most penalties in club history. Gibbs has broken down each penalty by offense, defense and special teams. The worst group was the offensive line. Left guard Derrick Dockery was the main culprit with 11 penalties: seven false starts, three holding and being ineligible downfield.

"We addressed that," said Joe Bugel, assistant head coach-offense. "That's something we've got to work on because that killed us; that killed us bad." . . .

Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin returned to practice yesterday after missing a few practices -- and Saturday's scrimmage against the Baltimore Ravens -- with a shoulder strain. . . . Cornerback Shawn Springs was held out of yesterday's practice after suffering a sore hamstring in drills before Saturday's scrimmage. . . . Defensive end Renaldo Wynn, whose father-in-law died Friday night, missed practice. Gibbs said Wynn has been given as much time off as he needs.