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Redskins, Colts ready to put on a show

CANTON, Ohio -- Darrell Green, Art Monk and Joe Gibbs are the links to Washington's championship past.

Jason Taylor and Jim Zorn represent the Redskins' future.

Sunday night the two eras will come face-to-face as Monk and Green watch the revamped Redskins play Indianapolis in the Hall of Fame Game.

"Everybody has a rehearsal," said Zorn, who makes his debut as Washington's coach. "It won't be perfect this first preseason (game) ... but we have several to get up to speed."

The game culminates a weekend-long celebration for Redskins fans that includes Monk and Green being inducted together Saturday night. Their 2008 Hall of Fame classmates were defensive end Fred Dean, who played for San Diego when Gibbs was on the Chargers staff; cornerback Emmitt Thomas, who coached Monk and Green during his tenure on Gibbs' staff in Washington; offensive lineman Gary Zimmerman and linebacker Andre Tippett.

But if fans think they'll get an early indication of whether the Redskins have improved after last season's playoff run, think again. As usual, the league's opening preseason game will be all for show.

Instead of fans seeing jarring hits from the last two defensive players of the year -- Taylor in 2006 and Indy's Bob Sanders in 2007 -- it's likely neither will play. Sanders hasn't even practiced after offseason shoulder surgery, and Zorn may elect to keep the recently acquired Taylor on the sideline, too.

Other Redskins starters who might sit out include running back Clinton Portis, tackle Chris Samuels, linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Carlos Rogers.

The veterans aren't complaining.

"The preseason games, you don't put a lot of stock in," Taylor said.

Indy will play it safe, too.

Sanders, two-time league MVP Peyton Manning (knee surgery) and former league sacks champion Dwight Freeney (foot surgery) were not scheduled to make the trip. All three remain on the physically unable to perform list.

Also out will be record-setting receiver Marvin Harrison and linebacker Gary Brackett. Harrison hasn't yet been cleared to take hits after offseason knee surgery, and Brackett hurt his hip in practice this week.

In all, the Colts will have 14 players sidelined, half of them projected starters. The remaining starters could leave in the first quarter. Dungy said Saturday that they would go about 15 plays, including Jim Sorgi, Manning's backup, who will make his third career start in the preseason.

"We want to get the offense going and make everyone comfortable, and we want to get the defense established," coach Tony Dungy said. "That's kind of the incentive for us."

Still, there will be some significance to the game.

Zorn plans to use it as a dress rehearsal to get in sync with his new staff and new players. He replaces Gibbs, a three-time Super Bowl winner and Hall of Fame coach. Gibbs' last replacement, Richie Petitbon in 1993, lasted one season.

"They're going to be thrust into a brand new situation and even the veteran players here, they don't know what I'm going to expect on the sidelines," Zorn said.

Defensively, there are other adjustments to make.

Sunday's game marks the debut of defensive radio helmets. Quarterbacks have used the helmets for years to call plays, but this season, defenders will have a chance to use the radios, too.

"I think it's an effective tool, having that ability to get the call in in real time," Brackett said. "It alleviates some of the time it takes to get a call, but they do turn it off 15 seconds before the (play) clock expires."

The large contingent of Redskins fans who traveled to Canton would certainly prefer seeing more substantive developments.

But with Zorn, a first-time head coach, not about to risk any more injuries, and Taylor still learning the system after his July 20 trade, Monk, Green and Gibbs will have to wait a few more weeks to see if this team can finally live up to the legacy they established in the 1980s and early 1990s.

For now, just enjoy the show.

"It is an extra preseason game, it's probably not the first thing we would choose," Washington tackle Jon Jansen said. "But it is a great honor to be able to play in it when a couple of Redskins are going into the Hall of Fame."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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