Wycheck: tight-lipped tight end Former Terp finds room at the 'Skins


CARLISLE, Pa. -- Frank Wycheck went through most of last season with a stiff upper lip.

"It was tough, but I didn't want to cause any controversy on the team. I didn't want to break up any of the team unity by complaining. That's just not the way I am. I held it inside," he said.

What Wycheck held inside at Maryland was his frustration when his tight end position was phased out by new coach Mark Duffner, who installed a run-and-shoot offense.

But privately, he shared his frustration with roommates David Mike, David Marone and Chad Wiestling.

"That's what friends are for. So you can come back [to the dorm] and lean on someone. They were there for me the whole year. You've got to let out your discouragement once in a while. Any time you go from playing a lot to not playing, it's a shock to your system. My roommates told me to hang in there," he said.

It turned out to be good advice. Wycheck has turned a lemon of a situation into lemonade.

Productive when he was switched to running back late in the year because of injuries, he decided to pass up his senior year and enter the NFL draft.

Wycheck's gamble appears to be paying off.

Not only was he drafted in the sixth round by the Washington Redskins, a team that features tight ends, he came out in a year in which rosters were expanded to 53 players.

With three of the first five players the Redskins selected in the draft now ailing (Tom Carter, Reggie Brooks and Sterling Palmer), Wycheck, the eighth player the Redskins picked, is getting a lot of notice.

Coach Richie Petitbon said, "He's got great hands and he can really catch the football. I think he's an excellent prospect. He's a young kid, only 21 years old, and he's got a lot of football ahead of him."

"Everything worked out for the best," Wycheck said. "I made a good decision. But if nothing worked out, I wasn't going to look back."

Wycheck is one of three former Maryland players still in the Redskins camp. The other two are defensive back Irvin Smith and defensive lineman Derek Steele. A fourth Maryland player, defensive lineman Ralph Orta, was waived on Monday.

Smith spent a year on the New York Jets practice squad before being cut in 1990 and then played two years in the World League with the London Monarchs before being cut by the Minnesota Vikings last year.

Smith conceded he "didn't play as well as he wanted to" in the scrimmage Saturday against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he intercepted a pass in Tuesday's practice and ran it into the end zone. He called it a "real confidence booster."

Petitbon, though, rated Smith as having only a "so-so" camp and added, "He's going to have to improve if he's going to make it, to be honest."

Steele, who was drafted on the seventh round by the Indianapolis Colts last year even though he was a backup at Maryland and was then cut during camp, is in a similar situation.

"It's up to me," Steele said. "I have a real good chance. I've got to be aggressive."

Steele was rooming with Orta when he heard the familiar knock on the door Monday morning.

"I knew one of us was going to go," Steele said.

Orta lost the numbers game. Wycheck, Steele and Smith are still trying to win it.

NOTES: C Matt Elliott suffered a serious injury to his left knee in last night's workout and will likely miss the season. Once the swelling subsides, the Redskins will conduct an MRI exam, and if it confirms their suspicion that he tore both ligaments in the knee, he'll undergo reconstructive knee surgery. The last player selected in the 1992 draft, Elliott started two games late last season when the team sustained a number of injuries, but was off to a slow start in camp and would have had a tough time making the squad. He's the first Redskin to suffer a season-ending injury this year. . . . QB Cary Conklin played well on his tender knee in the drill and will play in the scrimmage Saturday against the New York Jets.

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