CAPITOL PUNISHMENT

The flag at Redskin Park flew at half-staff, just another reminder of this week's events. Not that anyone here needed one. From players to regular employees to the media, everyone here had a tale to tell of Tuesday's events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. So, while the Redskins returned to practice Wednesday, this was anything but a typical day.

Owner Daniel Snyder knew lots of people who worked at the WTC. Club spokesman Karl Swanson had a neighbor killed in one of the plane crashes. And others knew someone who either lost someone or knew someone who did.

Few players, however, were as close to the tragedies as offensive lineman Ross Tucker. His girlfriend, Kara Koppenhaver, worked on the 22nd floor of one of the towers. But she just happened to be in a building across the street for a meeting. However, it took five calls from Tucker before he got through to hear she was OK.

And his captain at Princeton from last year, Chuck Hastings, was on the 66th floor of the second building hit. He was talking to his mother on his cell phone, while evacuating the building, when the second plane hit.

''Oh my god man, something has happened,'' he told his mother. ''I'm going to die.''

But he escaped.

''As upset as I was after [the loss to San Diego], this puts everything in perspective,'' Tucker said.

One disappointing note: veteran Darrell Green declined comment. It's too bad. Someone who has played here 19 years could have lent words of support at a crucial time.

Most players leaned toward playing Sunday. The Redskins told the players they shouldn't comment on whether or not they should play. But one player did. And he doesn't want to play.

''If they cancel this weekend's games, I wouldn't be disappointed at all,'' Redskins safety Keith Lyle, who grew up in Northern Virginia, said. His brother lives five minutes from the Pentagon and heard the crash. ''It would be a good gesture. Let this thing settle down so we can figure things out before we resume business. I know I wouldn't want to fly this weekend. It will be a tough situation.

''I have to do what the league says. But this tragedy is much bigger than the NFL. Baseball did a good job stopping all their games. This is when a nation has to come together. This is serious business and it affects everyone in this country. Nobody's safe. We're in the heart of D.C. We're a prime target for anything.''

Of course we now know the NFL has postponed all games this Sunday.


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