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'Skins, Carrier cry foul on suspension


ASHBURN, Va. - Washington Redskins free safety Mark Carrier feels he is being treated unfairly by the NFL.

According to Carrier, the league told him the reason he is being suspended for Sunday's game at Detroit is because of who he is.

Carrier has served a one-game suspension without pay for helmet-to-helmet hits in each of the past two seasons, and he received the same sentence this year after the league denied his appeal yesterday.

NFL Director of Football Operations Gene Washington upheld the ruling that Carrier misused his helmet against Carolina Panthers tight end Wesley Walls in the Redskins' 20-17 win Sunday at FedEx Field.

Walls stayed on the ground for a couple of minutes after the hit, but was able to continue.

Carrier could also face a fine next week from commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

"I went for the ball, which is what I was taught," Carrier said. "And if I was coaching, that is what I would teach people. They are trying to bring in my past instead of judging me on the merit of the play. And that is unfortunate.

"They pretty much said that in the meeting with me that we have to make a point throughout the NFL that this can't go on and this is unnecessary. It was told to me in the meeting that if this were anybody else, this might be a $3,500 fine, no problem. But because it was you and your past, we have to do something.

"I'm like, 'So you are saying that the play wasn't that bad, but because of me and my past, I got to be treated that way?' That is just unfair."

Redskins coach Norv Turner agreed with Carrier on not just the decision, but also the slow manner in which it was reviewed. The appeal denial was not announced until shortly before 6 p.m.

"I'm disappointed because I think after the lengthy review they had, they would see things from my point of view, from Mark's point of view," Turner said. "Look at the play and see that really, there wasn't a lot that Mark could do on the play if he was going to try and make a play and break up the ball. He had his hands on the football."

Carrier had returned to practice and began preparations for Sunday's game against Detroit, his former team. Teammates were happy to see Carrier back after he missed Wednesday's practice while pleading his case alongside Redskins director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato to NFL officials in New York.

With the suspension, Carrier cannot return to the team until Monday.

"It hurts a lot," Carrier said. "But more importantly, it hurts the team. They will be fine. Matt [Stevens] will play and do great. I have all the faith in the world in that.

"In the meeting, when I asked them, 'What do I do on this play? How do I defend it better?', not one person in the meeting stood up to try and say anything on how to defend the play."

The league suspended Carrier last season for one game after a hit against Green Bay Packers receiver Antonio Freeman. Carrier was also fined $50,000.

Carrier was also suspended for a game the year before for the same offense against Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Brice Hunter. In 1997, Carrier was fined $7,500 for impermissible use of his helmet against Green Bay and issued a warning for another hit in the same game.

NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash wrote in his decision, "Conduct similar to that for which Mr. Carrier has been disciplined for in the past would have certainly justified a multi-game suspension. The fact that the suspension will be limited to one game and is therefore less severe than the discipline imposed last year reflects the actual circumstances of Sunday's play."

Stevens and Carrier split time at practice yesterday. The job is all Stevens' today. He and strong safety Sam Shade will assume the responsibility of calling out the defensive signals against the Lions.

"They are going to try and attack me any which way they can," Stevens said. "I think play action, deep balls."

This is the second straight game the Redskins will be without a starter because of suspension. Guard Tre' Johnson missed the opener for his part in a fight during last year's playoff win over Detroit.

Cornerback Deion Sanders said Carrier's suspension is harmful because it comes against the Pro Bowl safety's former team.

"You've got to understand that he played for Detroit, so you want to go play," Sanders said. "That's like me getting suspended right before the Dallas game for a hard hit, which won't happen because I'm not doing that. My shoulders weren't made for that type of construction."

NOTES: Wide receivers James Thrash (strained groin) and Michael Westbrook (ankle) missed practice yesterday. Both are expected to return today and play Sunday. Defensive end Bruce Smith practiced for the first time since spraining his knee in Sunday's game.

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