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Coming and Goings: Redskins cut roster, add punter

Coming and Goings: Redskins cut roster, add punter

Some lockers were emptied at Redskins Park today and someone came in to fill one of them.

Among those who bade farewell to Ashburn was Darnerien McCants, the wide receiver who was the last of the Redskins’ 2001 draft class who was still on the roster. It appeared that “Darkerien” (that was the way that Steve Spurrier would constantly mangle his name) was, if not a rising star on the team, was at least secure in his spot on the team after he tied for the team lead with six touchdown catches in 2003. Even with a regime change from Spurrier to Joe Gibbs, McCants appeared to be a valued property by the Redskins. Gibbs compared McCants to Art Monk, high praise indeed. Gibbs put the Redskins’ money where his mouth was by signing McCants to a three-year, $4.5 million contract that kept the receiver off of the restricted free agent market.

That pen scratching on that paper was the high point of the Gibbs-McCants relationship. Gibbs became disenchanted with McCants’ practice habits and with his reluctance to participate on special teams. Those factors earned him a spot on the inactive list for 10 games last year.

The handwriting seemed to be on the wall for McCants’ imminent release for most of the summer and it became a little bit more visible when the team signed receiver Kevin Dyson, another big receiver, just before minicamp. The handwriting turned bolder as he dropped pass after pass early in camp and in the Carolina preseason game and the ink turned indelible as he continued to sit out special teams plays in the preseason games.

I knew that he was gone as he spoke with a few of us after a training camp practice. When asked about playing special team, he said that he was lining up as one of the gunners on punt coverage. The only aspect of doing it he didn’t like, he said, was the hitting part. “If I get to him (the returner) I’ll just wrestle him to the ground or something.” That’s kind of like saying that you like to go swimming, but you hate getting wet. Such an attitude will not earn too many points with special teams coach Danny Smith, who is as old school as they come.

Oddly, McCants was the first to break the news of his release, doing so via his own website:

ITS OFFICIAL!!!
I AM NO LONGER A REDSKIN! I thank everyone for there support and love through out the years. I want you to know this is my home and always will be, if God see fit for me to play again i'll give it my all like always. I wish my Redskin family the best and to all my brothers stay healthy and win. I love all of you because without you i dont exist, thank you i wish you peace and many blessings... (sic)

It was rather classy but rather odd farewell from a rather classy but rather odd player.

Along with McCants, the Redskins released TE Billy Baber, DB Charles Byrd, K Jeff Chandler, RB Jonathan Combs, RB Brock Forsey, WR Steven Harris, DL Charles Howard, LB Jared Newberry, DL Jerome Nichols, LB Clifton Smith, QB Bryson Spinner, and OL Josh Warner.

Baber’s long odds of making it were made much longer when the team signed massive TE Robert Johns, who, unlike Baber, has been getting himself noticed. Byrd was caught in a numbers game in a very crowded defensive backfield. I really thought that Chandler would challenge Jeff Hall for the placekicking job, but the “competition”, such as it was, ended in the first preseason game when Hall nailed a field goal from 40+ while Chandler was wide on an attempt from virtually the same distance. Combs fumbled away his chances in the Carolina game and Forsey and Harris never really had a chance. In the early going in camp Howard was a chic pick among the media types and others to be a dark horse for a roster spot, but he faded as camp wore on. Newberry is the first of the team’s draft picks to be shown the door; he’s a good bet for practice squad duty. Like Howard, Nichols found himself with too many good, experienced players at his position and, like Newberry, Smith found the same situation. Smith was on everyone’s list of the final 53 on the roster, but with rookie Robert McCune showing promise in the middle and proving to be a special teams demon, Smith became expendable. Spinner’s release was inevitable as the need for four QB’s went away when two-a-days ended. Apparently Cory Raymer and Lennie Friedman listened to those who said that their spots one the roster were at risk as they have responded with solid play so far, a development that cost Warner a chance at stealing a spot from one of those two.

The only person at Redskins Park who was feeling as bad as those listed above was Tom Tupa. That’s because one of the newly vacant lockers was quickly filled by the belongings and #15 jersey of one Chris Mohr. He’s a punter with 16 years of NFL experience. After having an excellent 2004 season, Tupa developed a back problem while warming up for the Cincinnati preseason game. He missed all of that game and the next one. Tupa’s once rock-solid grip on a roster spot is now quite tenuous for two reasons.

One is the signing of Mohr, the other the play of Andy Groom. The first-year punter out of Ohio State has been booming the ball both in practice and in the punts he has made in the preseason games. He has shown not only power but touch as well, putting four punts inside of the 20 last Friday against Pittsburgh. In light of Mohr’s arrival, he must be wondering what a guy has to do to get a roster spot.

It would be uncharacteristic of Gibbs to go with an inexperienced punter, but such a move would not be unprecedented. During his first season as head coach, veteran Mike Connell handled the punting duties. In camp the following year Jeff Hayes who, like Groom, had never punted in a real NFL game, won the job over Connell. That move worked out OK as we all remember how Gibbs’ second season ended.

There was a key difference between then and now that might make Gibbs less likely to go with a younger player. Back then, Joe Theismann was the holder for kicker Mark Moseley. The coach has decided to go with the punter in that role this time around. It is here that Gibbs might be nervous about going with inexperience. The occasional shanked punt or misplaced directional kick due to inexperience is one thing. Handling the snap on a game-tying extra point in the fourth quarter in the rain in October is quite another. If Tupa is unable to go or if his situation is iffy, that could be the deciding factor between Groom and Mohr.

For his part, Mohr is confident, perhaps to the point where it seems the Redskins have told him that the job is his as long as he performs decently in practice. "At this stage of my career I don't want to come in and compete," Mohr said. "You know what I can do."

Well, we don’t really but I guess we’ll find out.

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RGIII reportedly earns tryout with Los Angeles Chargers

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RGIII reportedly earns tryout with Los Angeles Chargers

Robert Griffin III's career resurgence in Cleveland ended following a lackluster 2016 season in which injuries sidelined him for all buy five games.

The Former 2012 Rookie of the Year finished the season 87-of-147 for 886 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions before being released by the team in March.

But the Redskins' former No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft is not giving up on his goal.

RGIII will reportedly work out for the Los Angeles Chargers, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS' ROSTER

Griffin III has spent the offseason working out with former Browns coordinator Pep Hamilton. According to Ian Rapoport, who spoke with Hamilton, RGIII is in very good health and is throwing the ball very well.

The Chargers' quarterback situation is as clear as any on the NFL. Phillip Rivers is the starting quarterback. He has been the Chargers' starting quarterback since 2006, and will be the team's starting quarterback until he retires or is traded. And despite Rivers starting every regular-season game for each of the last 11 seasons, the Chargers have no real plan at backup. There's career backup Kellen Clemens and rookies Mike Bercovici (Arizona State) and Eli Jenkins (Jacksonville State). That's it. 

Even if he remains injury riddled, RGIII does that have the tools to bat out backups Clemens, Bercovici and Jenkins.

But for now, it's a step in the right direction for the polarizing former Redskins quarterback.

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Unlucky Day: Cowboys release WR Lucky Whitehead following arrest warrant

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Unlucky Day: Cowboys release WR Lucky Whitehead following arrest warrant

Monday was an unlucky day for Cowboys wide receiver Lucky Whitehead.

What started with a warrant for his arrest ended with him being released by the Cowboys.

Back on June 22, Whitehead was arrested on charges of petit larceny in Woodbridge The former Osbourn High School (Va.) and Florida Atlantic wide receiver was popped for shoplifting under $200 of merchandise at a local Wawa convenience store.

RELATED: SCOUTING THE REDSKINS' 2017 OPPONENTS

An arraignment was scheduled for July 6. Court records indicate that Whitehead did not show up to court, and on Monday, July 24, a warrant for his arrest was issued, the Prince William County police Department confirmed. On Monday afternoon, Whitehead was informed that he was being released, according to Ian Rapoport.

Whitehead told the Dallas Morning News on Monday that he wasn't even aware that he was wanted in court. 

Whitehead's agent also claimed that the wide receiver wasn't in Virginia at the time of the arrest.

This all comes less than a week after Whitehead's pet dog was kidnapped and held for ransom. Whitehead got the dog back 24 hours later.

The Bealton, Va. native appeared in 15 games last season, hauling in three catches for 48 yards. He also carried the ball 10 times for 82 yards. Whitehead's biggest contribution came in the return game, where he returned 25 punts for 195 yards and 17 kickoffs for 394 yards.

Whitehead signed a 3-year, $1.5 million deal with the Cowboys in 2015 after going undrafted in the 2015 NFL Draft.