For Redskins, outcome secondary to outlook; Team aims to end preseason unbloodied, if not unbeaten


ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins could complete their first perfect preseason since 1985 tonight, and the players keep asking the same question: Who cares?

The starters want to quickly clock in a little more than a quarter's work against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Redskins Stadium (8 p.m.) without any major mishaps, and officially begin the countdown to their Sept. 12 season opener against Dallas.

The reserves, meanwhile, are sweating out their professional careers, trying to make a meaningful last impression before team officials announce its final cuts tomorrow morning.

So forgive the Redskins if beating the Buccaneers isn't the ultimate priority.

"As for the first unit, we want to get in and get out, escape injury-free," defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "That's the biggest thing. I know I've been thinking of Dallas ever since training camp."

The starting defense has already proved its point, stifling its first three preseason opponents -- New England, Buffalo and Pittsburgh -- to three total points.

As for the new-look offense, it still has to work out its receiving corps, with recently signed Irving Fryar making his Redskins debut and entering the mix. The rest of the spots, however, became cleared up this week when Redskins coach Norv Turner named running back Stephen Davis and left tackle Andy Heck as starters.

As a result of a virtually solidified depth chart, many of the Redskins have begun viewing tapes of the Cowboys.

"I just want to go ahead and play hard, then get ready for Dallas," said Davis, who rushed for 109 yards on 34 carries last season and beat out Skip Hicks for this year's starting job. "That's a regular-season game and a very important game in our division."

Some of the other Redskins don't have that sort of luxury as the club prepares to trim its roster to 53 players.

Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' director of player personnel, said most of the cuts will be based on individual performances on special teams, and he said the Redskins could pick up a couple of players after Sunday, the NFL deadline for the final roster limit.

He also said there are no trade talks taking place, tabling any discussion for now about acquiring Seattle wide receiver Joey Galloway, who is holding out for a new contract with the Seahawks.

"He's under contract with Seattle and they said they don't want to trade him," Cerrato said. "So there's nothing to talk about."

Most of the talk yesterday circulated on which players on the roster bubble would secure a spot. Many of the players on the fringe didn't show many signs of being nervous about tonight and preferred to keep their conversations short when asked about their chances of surviving the final cut.

"I'm ready to play," said linebacker Chester Burnett, who saw brief action last year after spending most of the season on the Redskins' practice squad. "I don't want to get caught up in any of the other talk."

"It's not up to me," said running back Chad Dukes, also a member of last year's practice squad. "But if it was up to me, I think I have shown I can play this game. Now, it's up to the coaching staff."

NOTES: Defensive end Kenard Lang and tight end Stephen Alexander, both listed as starters on the depth chart, will miss tonight's game due to injuries, trainer Bubba Tyer said. Lang sprained his left ankle in last week's preseason game in Pittsburgh and Alexander will sit out his second straight game with a knee injury. Turner said fullback Larry Bowie, who broke his left ankle in an Aug. 25 practice, could be kept on the 53-player roster because Bowie may be able to play as soon as the Oct. 31 game against Chicago. Tyer said Bowie, considered the club's best blocker out of the backfield, will remain in a cast until Sept. 29. Fullback Larry Centers, who leads the Redskins with 10 catches this preseason, missed Tuesday's practice with a sore leg and came back to work with the team Wednesday and yesterday. ESPN commentator and former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann visited practice Wednesday, throwing to receivers during position drills. The Redskins have lost their past four preseason finales.

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