Redskins: nothing to shout about Petitbon quietly seeks turnaround PRO FOOTBALL


ASHBURN, Va. -- Things were so bad Sunday, Washington Redskins coach Richie Petitbon tried a tirade at halftime.

"It did me a lot of good," Petitbon said with a grin yesterday.

Because the Redskins still were blown out by the New York Giants, 41-7, Petitbon and his coaches tried a more cerebral approach yesterday as they reviewed the loss with players and tried to find ways to rebound.

"The staff was very honest and straightforward," said defensive lineman Jason Buck, one of the team's walking wounded. "Hey, we knew we stunk. They came in and told us. It was nothing personal. There was no abuse. We deserve the criticism we're getting and everybody knows it."

Now the question is whether the 1-4 Redskins can come back or whether they're heading for only their second losing season since 1980.

The first priority is to patch the holes in the battered defensive line. Three players, Charles Mann (knee), Eric Williams (knee and hip) and Shane Collins (foot), missed the Giants game and two other linemen, Buck (separated shoulder) and Tim Johnson (bruised thigh), were injured Sunday.

The Redskins aren't sure how many games Buck will miss, but they're not ruling Johnson out of Sunday's game against the Phoenix Cardinals. Petitbon also hopes Collins and Williams will be back.

What will the coach do if all five ailing linemen can't play?

"We'll have to go with the four guys we have left," he said.

The four remaining defensive linemen are ends Al Noga and Sterling Palmer and tackles Bobby Wilson and Jim Wahler. Petitbon said he's reluctant to switch to a 3-4 defense because the Redskins' ends aren't suited to that formation.

Meanwhile, they'll bring in a few defensive linemen who have been cut by other teams for a workout today and decide whether any can help them.

The other solution is to try to keep the defense off the field. The Redskins have been outscored 40-0 in the first quarter in their first five games.

"The offense has got to take charge," general manager Charley Casserly said yesterday.

It helps that quarterback Mark Rypien returned against the Giants and got good reviews in his first game back since injuring his knee against the Cardinals in Week 2. "I thought he did a very good job," Petitbon said.

Now the supporting cast has to step up. His receivers dropped four passes, including costly ones by Reggie Brooks and Ricky Sanders that foiled the first two drives. The Redskins also had to abandon the run once they fell behind.

There's also the question of how the team will handle being 1-4, its worst start since it began Joe Gibbs' first season with an 0-5 record in 1981.

Petitbon, who said he could no longer remember how it was to be 0-5, was candid about accepting the blame.

In contrast to his demeanor last week when he became testy and wouldn't discuss his quarterback situation, Petitbon said, "I can understand the criticism with what we've gone through. I think it's well-justified. I think when you're the head man, you get blamed for everything. I think that's the way it is and that's the way it should be. We'll just continue to do what we think we have to do to win and see what happens."

Petitbon said the Redskins have to become healthy before they can determine if the team is starting a down cycle.

"If that's the reason for the injuries, who knows?" he said. "I just hope we'll get healthy again and then we'll find out. We'll just have to wait and see."

Said special teams coach Wayne Sevier: "It's a very unusual situation for a lot of guys. It's not something we have a history of doing so we can fall back on and say,'Here's how we do when we lose four straight.' It's new to us. We're paid to win. We're not paid to play."

Said Buck, who played on losing teams in Cincinnati: "It can be a mental thing that snowballs. That's what you have to guard against."

But Buck said he doesn't think that will happen to the Redskins.

"It's a totally different situation here," he said. "Nobody on this team is going to pack it in and give up. I think everybody here is a winner and a fighter. I expect us to come back and get some wins here."

NOTES: Petitbon said RB Earnest Byner hasn't carried the past two games because his role is now in the two-back offense, and the Redskins haven't been using that formation. At 31, Byner may be on the verge of being phased out. . . . Third-string QB Cary Conklin may be in the same situation at age 25. Petitbon said Rich Gannon was promoted to the backup position because his scrambling ability gives the team a different dimension.

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