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Royal, Baxter to Compete At Tight End

With the departure of veteran tight end Walter Rasby earlier this week, the Redskins will turn to third-year player Robert Royal and recently signed veteran Fred Baxter, head coach Joe Gibbs said on Wednesday.

Royal and Baxter are expected to compete for the starting job at tight end, with Royal having a leg up in the early going because he's been in Gibbs' offense longer.

"One of the reasons we made that move [to release Rasby] is that we want to look more at Robert," Gibbs said. "I think Robert will take that spot. We'll see how he plays and how Fred comes along."

Said Royal: "I just go out in practice and try to work hard every day. I'm just going to keep doing the same things that I've been doing every day
--continue to learn the system and try to become a better player."

Royal, who has one catch for 10 yards this season, said he has a sound understanding of the offensive scheme, but he prepares hard every week because the schemes change so much based on the opponent.

"It can be a very difficult offense to get down," he said. "I understand the philosophy of the coaches. But every week we change personnel and formations so much that you never really have it down. You have to prepare yourself every week as if it were the first game of the year."

Last year, Royal started the Redskins' first six games of the season, catching five passes for 48 yards. His season came to an end in Week 6 when he suffered a right hip injury while pass-blocking against Tampa Bay defensive end Simeon Rice.

The Redskins released Rasby on Tuesday this week. Rasby was in his second stint with the team; he played in Washington in 2001-02 and returned last offseason. He had five catches for 52 yards while serving mostly in run-blocking situations.

To replace Rasby, the Redskins re-signed Fred Baxter to the roster. Baxter, a 12-year vet, was with the team in training camp, but suffered a knee injury in the second preseason game against Carolina. The team had released Baxter in the final round of roster cuts.

Said Gibbs: "Fred was someone we felt had real potential for our team. He got hurt in the preseason and we felt like he could be a good special teams guy. Plus we think he can help us at tight end. We hated to lose Walter in it, but we are trapped right now with the moves that we had to make. We had to make that move, we felt like, so we will see how we do there."

Baxter, who has played for the New York Jets, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots, had worked out with the Dallas Cowboys recently before deciding to return to the Redskins this week.

"Bill Parcells was my coach back when I played for the Jets," Baxter said. "But at the same time, my heart was here [in Washington] and I was hoping they would bring me back."

Baxter said he expects to pick up the offense quickly.

"I've already looked over some of the basic plays that I learned from training camp," he said. "I tried to keep myself familiarized with everything. There are a lot of different formations and a lot of different shifts. We have the bye week now, so I can definitely catch up."

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