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News & Notes: Niles Paul’s Adjustment Continues, New Footballs In Use

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – Niles Paul was displeased with his performance in the Washington Redskins’ preseason opener last week at Buffalo – one in which he dropped three passes in his debut as a tight end.

Paul

“When it comes to grading out, I graded out really well in the blocking,” Paul said. “What surprised me was it was the passing game that I didn’t do too hot in. You know, I had those drops, and no excuses – that was just me dropping the ball.”

Paul, entering his second season, was a receiver last year. He began the transition to tight end, a position he had never played on any level, early in the offseason.

Targeted five times against the Bills, he only caught one pass for an 11-yard gain.

“I was extremely disappointed,” Paul said. “That’s why I told Sean [McVay, the tight ends coach] we’ve got to get back to the basics. Last year, I did 100 balls after practice, 50 before, and that’s what we’re doing again this year.”

* Though head coach Mike Shanahan has maintained the Redskins’ starters will play the first half in their second preseason game, this time at Chicago on Saturday, he clarified that number on Thursday by saying the top units would be on the field for between 30 and 35 plays.

The starting offense played 14 downs, leaving the field following a touchdown drive with 5:54 to play in the first quarter. The starting defense left the field after Buffalo’s next possession.

Chicago coach Lovie Smith has said his starting units will play the first half, and perhaps into the third quarter, on Saturday.

* The NFL began distributing footballs with synthetic laces to teams this week in preparation for their potential use in the second preseason game this weekend. Shanahan said he had no knowledge of the Redskins using such balls in practice, though quarterback Rex Grossman said they were worked into practice on Wednesday.

Several quarterbacks have objected to their use, according to an NFL.com report, because the laces – typically made of leather – have irritated the players’ fingertips. The balls are not dissimilar from the ones used in college football, and Grossman said that while he didn’t like them, the issue didn’t matter much to him.

* Markus White sustained a broken rib and a bruised kidney after taking a hit during Wednesday’s practice. Though he will not play Saturday, Shanahan said the outside linebacker’s injury is more one of “pain tolerance” and that he could play against Indianapolis on Aug. 25.

* Thursday marked another day off for linebacker London Fletcher, who has twice sat out of practice and missed the most of a third. “He wasn’t feeling too good today, so we kept him out,” Shanahan said.

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