Skins coach calls his stars careless

Updated: September 22, 2003, 10:42 PM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins coach Steve Spurrier backed off his threat to start fining players for committing penalties, and linebacker LaVar Arrington questioned whether the team was getting a fair shake from the officials.

When all was said, there were few fresh ideas Monday to stem the tide of Washington's NFL-high 35 penalties after three games, including the 17 that tied a single-game franchise record in Sunday's 24-21 overtime loss to the New York Giants.

"Our star guys are careless," Spurrier said. "They need to pick up the pace of playing within the rules to be an example to the other guys."

Immediately after the game, Spurrier said it might be time to starting fining players for egregious infractions. Instead, he has decided to give the accountability lecture one more try -- although docking the paychecks still might be an option down the road.

"We might consider it," Spurrier said. "We'll talk it over with some of the guys on the team. It seems to me in pro football, the players have got to be involved in this thing a lot, too. Hopefully, the accountability factor has got to relate throughout the team. That's what we've got to accomplish right now -- is everyone sort of being accountable to their teammates, their coaches, their fans and all that."

Arrington agreed, although all the yellow flags also had put the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker in conspiracy mode.

"I don't particularly believe in excuses, but I don't see us doing too much more than what these other teams are doing to us," Arrington said. "It kind of makes me wonder a little bit about some of these plays that are getting these penalties called."

Arrington was most concerned about what he perceived as a double standard on holding calls.

"If you're going to call it, call it both ways," Arrington said. "Some of those calls were definitely judgment calls, and obviously the judgment was to throw them on the Redskins. Not pointing any fingers, but let the players play the game."

Arrington said that he has been hit in the back of the legs "three to four times" this season and that other blockers are hitting defensive end Bruce Smith with impunity.

"I don't know how you adapt and adjust to someone hitting you on the back of your knees," Arrington said. "We'll see what happens. Maybe we'll have to start hitting guys on the back of their knees or something. Then maybe they'll start paying enough attention to call it."

Spurrier didn't go as far as Arrington, but the coach did say "a couple of holding calls were questionable, a couple of them were probably legit" on Sunday. Also, it was hard to complain too much because the Giants got called for 15 penalties -- not counting two the Redskins declined.

One of Pro Bowl tackle Chris Samuels' two holding penalties negated a 30-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, but that was just one of a stream of untimely errors. Darnerien McCants' decision to flick the ball at an opponent at the end of a play drew an unsportmanslike conduct penalty that killed a drive. Tackle Jon Jansen held Michael Strahan without a sack, but at the cost of three false start penalties. Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter's retaliatory shove on third-and-long kept alive a drive that the Giants turned into a touchdown just before halftime.

The trend is particularly embarrassing for Spurrier because he emphasized penalties from the first week of training camp. He even brought in league officials for extra practices just to help cut down on false starts and offsides.

Spurrier said he can't bench players for mistakes as he did in college because of the limited NFL roster size, but he said he would consider limiting playing time for the worst perpetrators.

"His team in Florida did it a lot, but they won because it's college," cornerback Champ Bailey said. "In the NFL, you can't do it. Somehow we've got to stop doing it. ... If he feels like (fines are) going to work, I'm for it. When you get penalties before the play starts, that's unnecessary."


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

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