For the first time in the last month, it appears the Washington Redskins are prepared to give linebacker LaVar Arrington playing time when they take on the San Francisco 49ers Sunday at FedEx Field.
Arrington, a three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, hasn't had any plays on defense in the Redskins' two road losses the past two weeks, but Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, yesterday offered the strongest hint yet that the coaching staff may be prepared to get him on the field against a San Francisco offense ranked 31st in the league and operated by rookie quarterback Alex Smith.
"He's had a really good week of practice," Williams said of Arrington. "I feel real good about his playing and real good about where he's at. The last two weeks, he's taken some strides physically. It looks like his legs are back. He's bouncing around pretty good out there."
Arrington said after practice he hoped to see more action this week, but preferred to leave questions about his playing time up to the coaching staff.
Brunell Strains Calf
Quarterback Mark Brunell was a late addition to the injury report when he apparently suffered a mild calf strain at the end of practice. A team spokesman said Brunell would be listed as probable, and is expected to play. "I just tweaked my left calf," Brunell said. "It's my plant foot, but I don't think it's that big a deal. I'm moving around. It feels like it's not going to be a problem at all."
Brunell said he was dropping back on a passing drill when he felt a twinge. "If it was painful, tough to move around or I was limping, I'd be concerned," he said. "We've got a couple more days. If it was Saturday, I might be a little more concerned."
A number of players again sat out practice, including running back Clinton Portis (bruised shin) and three defensive tackles, starter Joe Salave'a (plantar fasciitis), and backups Cedric Killings (ankle) and Aki Jones (hamstring). Williams said he expected two of the three tackles to be able to practice today and was not overly concerned about their status for Sunday. Only Killings is listed as questionable.
Safety Ryan Clark also worked out with the starting secondary despite missing the Kansas City game with a bruised spleen. He said he was pain free and had no doubt that he'd be able to start on Sunday.
Kicker John Hall continued to see more work in practice and may be active this week for the first time since the season opener. His strained quadriceps muscle may not allow him to kick off, and the Redskins had punter Derrick Frost practice kickoffs yesterday along with rookie Nick Novak. Coach Joe Gibbs said the team likely will wait until Sunday to determine if Hall can kick. If not, Novak will handle those duties for a fifth straight game.
Taylor Trial Set for Jan. 17
Safety Sean Taylor is scheduled to go on trial on felony assault charges Jan. 17 after a continuance hearing yesterday in Miami, according to representatives for the state attorney's office. The date was set after his case was postponed for a second time. The new date would come the Tuesday after the second round of the NFL playoffs, preceding the championship games.
Taylor, 22, was arrested in the spring for allegedly pulling a gun on individuals he believed had stolen two all-terrain vehicles from him. He was charged with felony assault with a deadly weapon.
Portis Wigs Out
Portis was wearing a gray fright wig -- actually the cover for a TV boom microphone -- and dark shades yesterday when he made his weekly appearance in front of cameras at Redskins Park.
"I might as well keep a sense of humor because if I leave it up [to the media], you're going to run it into the ground and drive me crazy," Portis said, referring to his troubling run of not scoring a rushing touchdown this season. "The last two weeks, we haven't won, so now it's becoming a problem. When you're winning, it really doesn't matter. When you're not winning, it becomes a problem. I have to find a way to get into the end zone now.
"Goal-line situations are killing us. We're dominating short yardage. . . . Our short yardage offense is pretty good. It's just goal-line when teams stack up and make us throw the ball. [Defenses] are getting penetration somehow. We have to figure that out and find a way to get into the end zone."
Staff writer Jason La Canfora contributed to this report.