Mitchell says headaches part of game

THE BALTIMORE SUN

ASHBURN, Va. -- Brian Mitchell is running his way into the record books, and he doesn't mind if he hits a few speed bumps along the way.

Mitchell, who already has set four Washington Redskins kick return records and is aiming to set NFL records in all four categories, was knocked dizzy on the opening kickoff Sunday by Curtis Buckley of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Redskins at first feared Mitchell had suffered a concussion and wouldn't let him return to the game until he passed such tests as subtracting from 100 by sevens -- 93, 86, 79, etc.

Mitchell said he wouldn't have come back if he thought the hit had resulted in damage.

"I'm a very competitive person. I'm also a very smart person and if I felt there was any type of problem, I would have taken myself out of the game," he said.

The NFL yesterday fined Buckley $7,500 for making the hit with the crown of his helmet. Buckley said he would appeal, saying he hit Mitchell with his shoulder, a point on which Mitchell agrees.

Wilber Marshall of the Arizona Cardinals wasn't fined for a similar hit on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman because Marshall hit Aikman with his forehead.

Mitchell said the hit against him was legal and that the NFL has become too concerned about concussions.

"I think all the people making all the rules are making a big fuss over nothing," he said. "If a guy gets hit in the head, some guys are going to get a concussion. They're trying to make the game too soft. Football, ever since you can remember, has been a violent game. If you don't want to get hit, if you're scared to get hit, don't get out there."

Mitchell said he never has had a problem with hits to the head. "I guess I thank God for having a hard dome," he said.

Mitchell said it's risky for Buckley to hit foes in the air with his head down.

"That's dangerous. It's best when you go to tackle to stay on your feet. He ducks his head."

With three games left, Mitchell needs 451 yards to break the NFL record for combined net yards in a season, 93 yards to top the league record for kickoff and punt return yardage, nine returns to break the mark for kickoff returns in a season, and is 79 yards behind the New Orleans Saints' Tyrone Hughes, who already has set the record for kickoff return yards in a season.

Mitchell is battling Hughes for the NFC spot in the Pro Bowl as a kick returner, but he's not satisfied with the season because of the Redskins' 2-11 mark as they prepare for Sunday's game in Arizona.

"I wish we were 11-2, then I'd be satisfied. We've got three more games. I hope we can win those to get momentum for next year," he said.

Meanwhile, if Orioles owner Peter Angelos is successful in buying the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and moving them to Baltimore next year, the team likely would be host to the Redskins as one of the eight home games.

According to the new schedule format for the 30-team NFL that the league announced yesterday, the Redskins will play at the NFC Central's fifth-place team. Tampa Bay is two games behind Green Bay, the fourth-place team.

The Redskins will play host to the Carolina Panthers, one of the two new expansion teams, and to the fifth-place AFC West team -- probably the Seattle Seahawks.

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