Punt well, Or kick your chances goodbye

Punt well. Or kick your chances goodbye. That's the message Washington has delivered to punters Bryan Barker and Brent Bartholomew. The Redskins signed punter David Leaverton, who has failed to land a roster spot in chances with five teams. And they said either Barker or Bartholomew will be cut based on their performance against New England on Saturday.

''The better of the two will be the guy standing Sunday,'' Redskins special teams coach Mike Stock said. ''It's a consistency factor. We didn't have that a year ago. We can't have 26-yard punts.

''It's gotta be better. Bryan knows that. We went through this all last year. He had his moments, but not enough. We're hoping for more consistency. I don't want to go into the season not knowing who will be the guy and who won't be the guy. I'd like to have it settled.''

Barker isn't worried. So he says.

''I've been doing this a long time,'' he said. ''And I look at this as another opportunity to get ready for the season. I can't think of it any other way than that.''

Bartholomew has kicked in seven games, but none since 2000. He's feeling the heat.

''Whoever punts the best is the one who stays,'' said Bartholomew who punted in two games for Miami in 1999 and seven games with Chicago the next year. ''There isn't any more pressure than that for a punter. Punting in the season is easier. Now you're punting against the guy next to you. It's a little tougher.''

Leaverton will kick off Saturday, though John Hall will handle the first kick off, Stock said. Leaverton will not get a chance to punt in a game until the following week against Baltimore. That'll leave him a handful of punts to possibly unseat a punter entering his 14th season.

Leaverton has been cut by Jacksonville, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, New England and the Jets. But he's worked to improve--especially the mental part of punting. In college he boomed away, focusing on his stats. That can't be done in the NFL.

''The guys who have kicked the longest kick with great hang time and for 42 yards,'' said Leaverton, who can also hold (as does Barker). ''That's what they want from us. Just a guy who can get the ball and hang it up high. Punt returners are such incredible athletes these days that you've gotta have someone to hang it up. It doesn't do you any good to hit the ball 60 yards if they return it 40 on you.

''All I ask for is an opportunity and I'll get that here. This is my sixth team in three years and it's always been against someone with a lot more experience. Coaches always put a lot of weight on experience and I can't blame them for that.''

. . . Two-a-days ended today, which means the rookies had to perform skits last night. Word had it there was a top-10 ugly player list, which no one wanted to divulge. But the biggest laugh went to rookie Gibran Hamdan for his portrayal of coach Steve Spurrier.

''Being a guy who grew up in Maryland, it's hard to replicate his southern voice,'' Hamdan said. ''I've got the look down, I had the visor, the whistle and some of his mannerisms. It got a lot of laughs.''

. . . Receiver Cliff Russell is questionable for Saturday with a sprained shoulder; running back Ladell Betts (elbow) also is not expected to play; receiver Darnerien McCants (hamstring) also won't play. Guard Randy Thomas (knee) did not practice Thursday morning, but is expected to play. Linebacker Kevin Mitchell (back) did not practice, but is expected to play. Guard Tre Johnson (Achilles) and lineman Rod Jones (ankle/toe) also won't play.

. . . The Redskins have new parking lots open along McCormick Drive and Apollo Drive, replacing those lost in the old USAir Arena lot. To access the new lots, fans should exit either 15A (Route 214 East) or 17A (Route 202 East). Shuttle buses will transport fans to FedEx Field. Also, there is no longer game-day cash parking at Jericho Church. It's now a permit parking area.

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