When receiver Santana Moss, who's generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, joined the Redskins in March, he was a little skeptical on hearing that 5-11, 200-pound safety Ryan Clark was a big hitter.
"I kind of looked at Ryan and I was like, 'Are you sure?'" Moss said. "Then in our (Aug. 6) scrimmage against the Ravens, I saw him fly around and throw his body (around) ... It was very impressive, seeing his size. Better him than me."
That's just fine with Clark. Despite missing the first two games with a sprained knee suffered during preseason and the Denver game with a bruised spleen suffered against Seattle, Clark has 25 tackles, fifth on the team.
"I've never been scared to hit," Clark said. "I go up and try to hit. Sometimes I win. Sometimes I lose. Lately, I've been winning more than losing. I had a good friend tell me, 'You're either going to be the hammer or the nail.' I might be a small hammer, not a sledgehammer."
Brian Westbrook got a quick taste of that last Sunday when Clark put the Pro Bowl running back on his butt after a 1-yard gain to end Philadelphia's first series.
"Ryan thinks he's a linebacker," linebacker Marcus Washington said.
Clark hasn't forgotten being told by New York defensive coordinator Tim Lewis "they think you can't tackle" before the Giants cut him in the winter of 2004. Clark made a career-high 14 tackles and his first career interception two weeks ago against the Giants.
"Ryan plays with a chip on his shoulder," safeties coach Steve Jackson said.
That's unfortunate for opposing ball carriers.
Said Jackson, "Ryan goes out with the intention of, 'It's either going to be you or it's going to be me. One of us is going to be the fly. One of us is going to be the windshield.' That's the way he approaches every tackle, every bit of contact."
Clark had 53 tackles in the first five games in which he played extensively last season, but just 32 in the final seven weeks as he wore down while shedding pounds. He's hopeful that a rigorous off-season will help him hold his weight in the second half of this season.
SERIES HISTORY: 14th meeting. The Redskins lead the series 7-6, but have lost their last four visits to Tampa, including the 14-13 divisional playoff loss in 1999. Brian Mitchell returned a kickoff for Washington's only touchdown that day, while Tampa Bay's only touchdown came after Shaun King was sacked by Shawn Barber only to have the ball squirt forward for a 14-yard gain. And then a bad snap prevented the Redskins from getting off a potential game-winning field goal with 1:17 left.
Quotes and Notes
--Knowing the defense had played poorly in the previous week's 36-0 loss to the Giants and that he was going to start and play extensively for the first time in more than a year, three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington gave his teammates a fiery talk on the eve of last Sunday's game against defending NFC champion Philadelphia.
"LaVar had watched his alma mater (Penn State) play and he wanted us to bring the same intensity when we play," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "In college, you're playing because you love it ... that closeness, that brotherhood, that pride. I think we displayed that (against the Eagles)."
Arrington noted that the transient nature of the salary-cap era combined with the complications of money makes team chemistry more elusive in the NFL. He said that a major reason why Tampa Bay's defense is top-ranked is that the Buccaneers have eight of the starters and the coordinator still on hand from their 2002 Super Bowl championship team.
--In his first full start since Week 2 of 2004, Arrington tied middle linebacker Lemar Marshall for the team lead with 10 tackles against the Eagles, moving within two of the season total of Warrick Holdman, who started the first seven games ahead of him on the weak side.
"You can't try to run away from (me) when you have somebody on the other side like LaVar, who can make big plays and who's just a presence out there," Washington said. "That gives me a chance to get a little more action my way so I don't get so bored."
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Consecutive years that the Redskins played at Tampa Bay after coach Joe Gibbs' retirement in March 1993.
9 -- Years since the Redskins last played at Tampa Bay.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Mike's about as important to this team as you can get. He plays all special teams. To be that big and to be able to run like that, he's a man. He's the dream guy if you drew one up. He jumps in at practice and wants to carry the football." -- Coach Joe Gibbs on 6-foot-3, 280-pound H-back Mike Sellers, who joins Santana Moss in sharing the team touchdown lead with five, equaling the total of his previous five seasons.
--QB Mark Brunell didn't practice because of a minor calf strain that kept him out last Friday. Brunell started two days later and is expected to do so again this Sunday.
--FS Sean Taylor didn't practice because of the sprained ankle that he rested last Thursday. Taylor started three days later and is expected to do so again against Tampa Bay.
--LDT Cornelius Griffin didn't practice because of the hip flexor he re-aggravated on the first play of the 36-0 loss to the Giants on Oct. 30. Griffin hasn't been on the field and likely won't play this week.
--RDT Joe Salave'a didn't practice because of the plantar fascitis in his right foot that he first hurt on Oct. 16 at Kansas City. Salave'a has missed most practices since but hasn't missed a game. This week should be no
--RDE Phillip Daniels didn't practice Wednesday because of the sprained ankle he suffered against the Giants. Daniels sat out last Wednesday and Thursday before returning Friday and starting on Sunday. He'll likely follow the same pattern this week.
GAME PLAN: The Redskins will try to win with defense and special teams because the Buccaneers have the NFL's top defense and No. 2 run defense. Despite the unanticipated outstanding play by Brunell and Moss, the offense has only topped 21 points against San Francisco.
Assistant head coach Gregg Williams' defense isn't having the fantastic year it did in his Washington debut in 2004, but it has forced five of its six turnovers and 10 of its 14 sacks against young quarterbacks (Kyle Orton, Alex Smith and Eli Manning). So look for Williams to bring the house against Bucs QB Chris Simms, who's making his fifth career start.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
--Redskins LOT Chris Samuels vs. Bucs RDE Simeon Rice. Three-time Pro Bowl pick Rice had a monster day with four sacks against the Redskins in 2003, Samuels' worst year. Two-time Pro Bowl pick Samuels shut him out in the 2004 opener.
--Redskins WR Santana Moss vs. Bucs CB Ronde Barber. After a red-hot first six games, Moss was held relatively in check by the Giants and Eagles the last two weeks (11 catches, 113 yards, no TDs). Two-time Pro Bowl pick Barber is a big reason why the Bucs lead the NFL in defense and are second in pass defense.
--Redskins MLB Lemar Marshall vs. Bucs RB Carnell Williams. Marshall has done a nice job of moving inside from the weak side and replacing departed top tackler Antonio Pierce. Marshall has a team-high 70 tackles, but the defense continues to give up big runs (six of at least 30 yards during the last six games) and ranks just 21st against the run. Williams had an awesome first three weeks but has just 62 yards on 35 carries since while missing two of five games with injuries.
INJURY IMPACT: If, as expected, LDT Cornelius Griffin can't play again, either DE Demetric Evans -- who filled in last week -- or backup DT Cedric Killings, inactive the last three games with a sprained ankle, will start alongside gimpy RDT Joe Salave'a.