Lewis dismisses 3-4 plans

The Redskins flirted with the idea of playing a 3-4 defense. But they've abandoned those plans. At least for now.

''We have a scheme and the only decision is if we have to depart from what we're doing,'' Redskins defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. ''I don't see that occuring. But if we have four linebackers better than the four down guys we've got, then we'll have to do that.''

Right now, their personnel is geared to a 4-3. The Redskins are set at linebacker with LaVar Arrington, Kevin Mitchell and Jessie Armstead. And there's still some interest in resigning Shawn Barber, giving Washington four linebackers. There's a chance Armstead would move inside--he played there in the Giants' nickel defense in 1995. One guy who won't move inside, at least in a 4-3, is Arrington.

Washington also is talking with free agent end Kenny Mixon and defensive tackle Steve Martin (who played over the nose in a 4-3, fueling some of the 3-4 speculation).

Meanwhile, Armstead was formally introduced to the media on Tuesday, though he spoke with two reporters last week. Armstead liked how quickly the Redskins pursued him after the Giants released him on Feb. 28.

And Armstead also liked the way the Ravens' defense played under Lewis. Baltimore beat the Giants in the Super Bowl after the 2000 season.

''I liked the attitude they had,'' he said. ''They didn't sit around like little choir boys#=we sat around like choir boys. They came out and said what they would do and they did it. They flew around and made plays and they got the ring.''

Armstead has made the past five Pro Bowls, but he's also battled injuries in two of the past three seasons, including a torn hamstring this past year. Yet he never missed a game.

He's known for his strong leadership. Which is why the Redskins hope he becomes a mentor for fellow outside linebacker LaVar Arrington. The new teammates became friendly at the Pro Bowl last month.

''A guy like LaVar should look up to a guy like me,'' Armstead said. ''I'm excited to show him different techniques and teach him about the game a little more. I can't teach him too much; he's already in the Pro Bowl. But I want to keep him in the Pro Bowl.''

Arrington said he's excited to play with Armstead. But he also made it clear he wants Barber, his best friend on the team, to return. Barber is scheduled to visit the Jets and Giants this week.

''Anytime you sign someone like Jessie, it's obviously an instant improvement to the defense,'' Arrington said. ''Watching him over the years, he brings a certain energy to the team, and brings some leadership.

''I hope it doesn't do anything to get rid of [Barber]. I hope the coaching staff and the front office realizes what a talent they have in Shawn and don't let him get away.''

. . . Redskins coach Steve Spurrier is content with having Shane Matthews and Danny Wuerffel as his top two quarteracks.

The reasoning: Spurrier knows both, having coached them at Florida and they're much, much cheaper than anyone else on the market. Why spend $5 million for Drew Bledsoe when Matthews costs only $900,000? That leaves more money to fill other needs. Besides, Tom Brady and Jim Miller proved numerous quarterback theories wrong this past season.

Of course, the Redskins still must trade for Matthews. The Bears will drag their feet on the deal while working out a deal with free agent center Olin Kreutz. Then, a Bears source said, they'll probably make the trade with Washington.

John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers and is a correspondent for Pro Football Weekly.


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