The O-Line shuffle

Redskins line coach Kim Helton doesn't like to shuffle his lines. Then Chris Samuels got hurt. And Rod Jones flopped. And Brenden Stai was signed. And Jones got hurt and was placed on injured reserve. So where does that leave Washington's line entering the season?

In a state of transition. Stai, signed Thursday, worked with the first team at right guard today. Ross Tucker was moved from right guard to left guard, where he'll be challenged by Kipp Vickers and David Loverne. Vickers and Alex Sulfsted split time at left tackle today.

''I don't like to shuffle guys around,'' Helton said. ''You don't learn to play next to a guy if the guy is gone every week. You have to be where you can handle your part of what's going on. [That's hard] if you keep swapping guys in and out.''

For Stai, the challenge is to learn a new offense in less than two weeks. He's been in this spot before when Kansas City traded him to Jacksonville in August of 2000. But Stai had played in an offense similar to Jacksonville's so the adjustments were minimal. He's never played in anything like Steve Spurrier's system.

''Let me put it to you this way,'' Stai said. ''It's the first day of school and you're a foreigner. You don't really know anybody. It's a matter of maturity and you take it upon yourself to get the job done. . . I'll be comfortable, believe me. I won't go in there if I'm not comfortable. I won't put my team in a situation where because of my play we'll lose. If that's the case I'll tell [Helton] that I'm not comfortable. But it's something I can lick in about a week.

''It's exciting to know that I'm next to [right tackle Jon Jansen] who, in my opinion, is a Pro Bowl caliber player. That makes my job easier.''

. . . The Redskins cut defensive backs Ron Israel and Kenneth Grant and offensive lineman Akil Smith. They're expected to cut defensive lineman Sean Powell among their three cuts on Tuesday. The Redskins only need to get to 68 because they have three NFL Europe exemptions. Rookie Cliff Russell, already on IR, counts toward the roster through this cut.

. . . Linebacker Shamar Finney had a strong day in practice. He tipped away two passes in coverage and intercepted another. All within 10 minutes.

. . . Ladairis Jackson worked again with the first unit at right end, next to Carl Powell.

. . . Safety Ifeanyi Ohalete has worked more and more with the first nickel defense after spending time in the dime last year.

. . . Left tackle Chris Samuels started doing more rehab exercises on the field, tossing various medicine ball in different ways--a large one while on his knees leaning forward; a small one over his head. He's still scheduled to return for the opener.

. . . Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener took part in some individual drills today. He said his back feels fine. The Redskins will take it easy with him and they do expect him back for the opener. However, they're not expecting too much: we hear that they'll be happy if they get eight games out of him.

. . .The media will watch their last practice on Tuesday. The person we'll miss most: Helton. He's always good for a shout or two during workouts. Today, he shouted at Loverne during a footwork drill over bags: ''Get your body square, David! Sh--, it's not a damn karoake drill. Quit trying to ease through life!''

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