CARLISLE, Pa. -- Art Monk still is refusing to concede that Father Time might be gaining a step on him.
In his 14th season with the Washington Redskins, Monk, who rarely gives interviews even in the best of times, finally agreed to discuss publicly his controversial off-season demotion yesterday and insisted he hasn't lost a step.
"I still believe in myself," said Monk, 35. "I know what I'm capable of doing and that's all based on what I know I can do, not because of what I've done in the past."
"I don't think I have [lost a step]. I never had great speed. I never had great quickness. I always got the job done," he said.
When he was asked if he accepted that athletes eventually slow down, he said: "That's life. I think it all depends on the individual. How well a person takes care of himself. How well they train."
Monk was told by new coach Richie Petitbon during the off-season that if he wanted to return, he'd be a backup at last year's salary ($1.1 million).
Sources on the Redskins suggested that owner Jack Kent Cooke wanted to bring Monk back for a farewell year without a pay cut as a tribute to him.
Monk didn't look at it that way. He was so upset that he skipped minicamp because of his disagreement with the Redskins that he said "was never completely resolved."
He said, "I just took the attitude that's the way things were going to be."
Petitbon explained last week why he informed Monk of his new status during the off-season, but added that no athlete wants to hear that message.
"I think the guy's a class guy and I think it was our duty to really let him know how we felt about his status, [but] I don't think you can tell anybody they're getting old," Petitbon said.
Petitbon said he was lucky when his career ended in his 14th season
with a knee injury because that made his departure easier to accept.
Monk, by contrast, isn't injured and isn't ready to accept the thought he's getting old. His demotion has become an incentive for him.
"It definitely spurred me on to really prepare myself for this year. I'm probably in the best shape I've been in for a long time. I'm not coming in to try to prove anything. I want to come in and still be able to run and keep up with the rest of them and do all the things I've always done," he said.
Last season, after he broke Steve Largent's all-time receptions record, he showed signs of decline as he caught only six passes in the last four regular-season games.
He declined to explain the drop-off. "That's something I'd rather not get into," he said.
He gave a glimpse of his thinking when he was asked how he caught so many passes throughout his career without great speed.
"I was always put in the right situations, as far as game-planning and that sort of thing," he said.
It's obvious Monk convinced himself that the problem was the game plans, not the fact he wasn't getting open.
Monk wouldn't directly criticize the Redskins and said the controversy hasn't strained his relationship with the coaches even though he was hurt when he was demoted.
"I guess the meeting was to see how I would react. Would I fly off the handle or just take it? I wasn't rebellious. I wasn't going to show anger or rebellion, but deep down inside, I didn't accept it," he said.
He said the fan support has surprised him and boosted his confidence, but he seems resigned to his fate this year.
"My attitude is, whatever happens, happens. I always like to prepare myself for the worst. If I don't start, I don't start. If I don't play, I don't play. If I don't suit up, I don't suit up. All I can do is go out there, work hard and do the best I can."
NOTES: Center Matt Elliott was on crutches yesterday waiting for the swelling to go down on his injured left knee so he can have an MRI exam. The Redskins said they think he's out for the season with two torn ligaments, but Elliott won't concede he'll miss the year until he gets the exam. . . . The Ricky Ervins contract dispute remains at an impasse. The two sides haven't talked since Sunday.