Washington to give Utley 'thumbs up' Team also plans financial assistance


MINNEAPOLIS -- The Washington Redskins are going to flash Mike Utley the "thumbs up" sign when they're introduced for Super Bowl XXVI on Sunday.

After debating what would be a proper tribute to the former Detroit Lions offensive lineman, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a freak accident during a game in November, the Redskins decided to give him the "thumbs up" sign during introductions.

Utley gave his teammates the "thumbs up" signal when he was being wheeled off the field during the game with the Los Angeles Rams.

The Lions won their next seven games before the Redskins routed them in the NFC title game two weeks ago. Even though Utley's team was eliminated, the Lions wanted him remembered in the Super Bowl.

Eric Williams, a former Detroit teammate, said: "This is not a Detroit thing. This is a Mike Utley thing. A people thing. As players, we should take responsibility and show support for Mike."

Williams was happy that coach Joe Gibbs supported a plan to honor Utley. "He doesn't want the support for Mike Utley to die because Detroit's out of the playoffs. That's pretty neat for a coach," Williams said.

The Redskins considered other tributes, including wearing No. 60 -- Utley's number -- on their helmets, but decided the "thumbs up" gesture was the best thing to do. They plan to notify the Bills of their plans in case they want to join in.

A Lions spokesman said the Bills have contributed $11,000 to the Mike Utley Foundation. Williams said the Redskins plan to make a contribution after the game.

The Lions spokesman said Utley was told of the Redskins' plans and he said Utley appreciated the gesture and will be watching.

Utley's metal halo was removed from his head on Jan. 13, and he is in a rigorous therapy program. He would have tried to attend the game if the Lions had made it.

* Redskins wide receiver Gary Clark came up with an unusual way of getting some attention at the interview sessions yesterday.

He spoke to reporters while lying on his back on the platform behind the table where he was supposed to be sitting. Photographers complained that because Clark was in front of a mirror, they were getting double images of him.

Clark explained his position by saying that he was tired, that his back hurts, that he was annoyed because nobody would let him interview them and that "I need a shrink because I'm too small to play this game."

* Clark was amazed that Art Monk, who didn't give any interviews until last week after passing Charlie Joiner to become No. 2 on the all-time passing list Oct. 13, showed up for the third straight media session and answered all questions.

"What did Art have to say? The guy never talks to me. I think he's enjoying this Super Bowl. I really do," Clark said.

Monk has caught only two Super Bowl passes, so he'd like to have a big game this time.

* The Redskins had spirited practices before their Super Bowl game four years ago and seem to be doing the same thing this year.

Tight end Terry Orr said he thought Wednesday's first practice was the best of the season, and during yesterday's practice, Jim Lachey and Matt Millen got into a brief scuffle.

Gibbs said: "I think it started off real and then they realized they were buddies. You never know if they are joking. They do it all the time."

Millen said: "I popped him one. I tried to souffle him, but he's too big. Then, there was no use continuing because we were both worn out."

* Ricky Sanders was held out of yesterday's practice with a sore quadriceps muscle. He first had problems in Wednesday's practice and was held out as a precautionary measure. All the rest of the Redskins practiced.

* The Steelers have joined the Vikings and the 49ers as teams interested in talking to Redskins assistant coach Rod Dowhower for an offensive coordinator's post. They'll have to ask the Redskins' permission to talk to him after the game, and the Redskins could prevent him from leaving by elevating him to the coordinator's position. The Redskins don't have a coach with that title.

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