ASHBURN, Va. -- It's well known by now that Mike Shanahan typically doesn't reveal his preseason game plans ahead of time, so the answer was predictable Tuesday when the coach was asked who will start at quarterback for the Washington Redskins this week.
"You know me better than that," Shanahan said.
Nevertheless, he kept on going.
"Just so you know," he added with a smile, "John Beck will start."
The choice isn't a surprise -- which is probably why Shanahan was willing to say it -- but it does reaffirm that Beck and Rex Grossman remain on equal football in the battle for the starting job, despite the groin injury that kept Beck out of the first game.
Beck slightly strained his groin while stepping up to avoid a defender during an Aug. 7 practice. The injury limited his ability to roll out and bootleg, so he was kept out of 11-on-11 team drills last week and sat out the 16-7 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Grossman started and made quite a statement -- completing 19 of 26 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown in one half.
Now Beck will have his turn Friday night against the Indianapolis Colts. It could be argued that it's the biggest start of his pro career; it certainly could have as much as an impact as the four regular-season starts he had as a rookie during the mop-up portion of a 1-15 season with the Miami Dolphins in 2007.
"I'm excited to play because I missed an opportunity," Beck said. "It was tough to go through an injury because I missed practice, and that was frustrating, and not being able to play in the game, that was also frustrating. It's good to come out and get a week of practice, get back into the flow of things and just be excited about a game."
Shanahan has improved the Redskins' roster in many ways -- fulfilling talent needs and bringing in high-character players -- but the coach's chances for success in his second season in Washington largely hinge on his faith in his top two quarterbacks. Beck, who turns 30 on Sunday, hasn't played a down in a regular-season game since that formative rookie season, when his high-water mark was 177 yards in five appearances.
"My mindset is a little different," Beck said. "This entire time, I've been preparing differently. Although it was a tough situation in Miami, I also learned a lot of things."
Ironically, Beck was a bit overworked at the start of training camp. Because Grossman couldn't join the Redskins until Aug. 4 because of special rules put in place following the NFL lockout, Beck took the majority of the snaps and had a tired arm after a few days.
Now he's the one with the extra rest.
"It's kind of been a funny deal because it almost feels like it was two different parts, one before I got injured and then I had a break for a couple of days," Beck said. "It was kind of like a chop in the middle."
This week, Beck has run through the drills with no problem, preparing for his big chance.
"He's fine," Shanahan said. "I think John's close to 100 percent. Maybe he is 100 percent. They never tell you the truth anyhow, so you've just got to watch them practice."
Notes: Third-year RB James Davis, a mysterious no-show at Monday's practice, was placed on the reserve/left squad list. "I'm still looking for him," Shanahan jokingly said. "He went from missing in action to a prisoner of war, so I'm not exactly sure where he's at." More seriously, Shanahan said Davis left the team in the middle of the night -- "his roommate said his clothes were gone" -- and apparently returned home to Georgia. The coach said he believes Davis is retiring from football. A posting on Davis' Twitter account promises details to come: "Please do not believe everything you (hear) people. The story will be released soon. The real truth of the story." ... The Redskins replaced Davis by signing TE Tony Curtis, who started six games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. ... DBs DeAngelo Hall and Chris Horton waited until the final day to produce the only good fight of training camp. The scuffle during a 7-on-7 drill was unusual because it wasn't offense-vs.-defense, and because Hall hinted it had more to do with a simmering debate over how to play the scheme rather than just two players succumbing to the heat of the moment. "We can't be 31st in the league on defense and think we're going to win ballgames," said Hall, referring to the unit's ranking last season, "so you've got to correct it out here on the field. If that involves somebody getting smacked around a little bit, then that's what we've got to do. We're going to get it fixed." ... WR/KR Brandon Banks will miss Friday's game with a sore left knee.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press