Defense hopes older means better; Linebacker Gouveia, 35, added to NFL's worst unit;


ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins' much-maligned defense may be older, but is it truly wiser?

On Thursday, the Redskins hired 72-year-old Bill Arnsparger as their "defensive specialist." And yesterday, they announced the signing of Kurt Gouveia, a 35-year-old linebacker who started for the club's last playoff team in 1992. He replaces Malcolm Hamilton, a second-year player who was placed on injured reserve with a bulging disk.

"Talk about your revolving door," said Gouveia, who has played for Philadelphia and San Diego since leaving the Redskins five years ago. "They have a bunch of young guys and what they need now is somebody to guide them."

Out of football since the end of last season, Gouveia had only worked out for Indianapolis before receiving a call to try out at Redskin Park on Thursday. He will back up middle linebacker Derek Smith and add more experience to the NFL's worst defense, which has given up 29.5 points and 433.5 yards a game.

The addition of Arnsparger, a 23-year NFL coaching veteran and architect of the Miami Dolphins' "No Name Defense" in the 1970s, has been perceived as a message that Redskins officials doubt that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan can turn around the unit.

Will that line of thinking trickle down to the players?

"I don't think our guys have a lack of confidence in what we're doing," Redskins coach Norv Turner said. "I explained that we are getting the experience of Coach Arnsparger as well as his leadership."

Raising Arizona

Fullback Larry Centers returns to Arizona on Sunday for the first time since the Cardinals passed on re-signing him during the summer. So the two-time Pro Bowl player for the Cardinals, who has started slowly this season for the Redskins, admitted that he's pumped up for this homecoming.

"I have something to prove to the front office and coaches that didn't think I'm the player I think I am," Centers said. "That's no difference than what I have to prove every week to any team. But it would be special vs. this team since they released me."

Tight situation

The Redskins will spread the Arizona defense with three-wide-receiver formations, but it's not based purely on strategy. Actually, it might be out of necessity.

Injured tight ends Stephen Alexander and James Jenkins did not practice yesterday, although Alexander expects to suit up tomorrow. Still, the Redskins have concentrated on expanding the role of third wide-out Irving Fryar beyond just third-down situations.

"We had to get more three-wide-receiver stuff ready," said Turner, who hasn't had to alter his starting lineups yet this season. "When a guy comes into a game not 100 percent, he can come out of the game real fast."

Alexander suffered a bruised tailbone Oct. 3 against Carolina. He ran passing routes off to the side yesterday for the first time since the injury. Jenkins, who is primarily a blocker, had his knee scoped Oct. 4, and Turner said his availability will be determined Friday.

If both remain injured, the Redskins could move versatile fullback Mike Sellers up front.

"I'm going to play on Sunday," said Alexander, who has 11 catches for 158 yards. "I picked up the pace a little bit and it felt good. I know it's not full speed, but I think it's a good sign."

Et cetera

Right guard Tre' Johnson, who did not participate in last week's light workouts because of a knee injury, took part in all drills yesterday. Stephen Davis, the NFL's rushing leader with 400 yards, has nine touchdowns through the first four games, which fell one shy of Jim Brown's league record of 10 to open his 1958 season. The idle Redskins were bumped out as the NFL's top-rated offense by Green Bay on Sunday.

Pub Date: 10/12/99

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