Heath Shuler's professional debut was neither spectacular nor disastrous. And that, as far as Redskins coach Norv Turner was concerned, made it a success.
Shuler completed 4 of 10 passes for 47 yards and one interception on Monday night in Washington's 13-11 loss to the Buffalo Bills. The No. 3 pick in this year's draft, Shuler didn't practice until Wednesday because of a contract holdout."I'm surprised we were able to get the ball snapped with him," Turner said. "Heath has had four practices. What he did today - assimilate the play calls, the formations, who is going where, look at the coverages, make the throws - is phenomenal."
Shuler did have trouble getting the ball snapped once, when the Redskins were called for a false start on his second play. But his biggest problem was what he did with the ball when he got it.
In his first two series, he took over in bad field position. In his third, the Redskins managed only 5 yards and a field goal after starting on the Buffalo 20 yard line.
His fourth possession, from the Redskins' 43, lasted only one play. Facing pressure from James Patton, Shuler was intercepted by Jeff Burris.
"I thought as far as knowing the progressions, knowing the routes, I thought I did a very good job," Shuler said. "All the plays we ran, I felt totally comfortable. That was the game plan going in. I knew all the plays. I was fine with them."
Shuler needs more time to get comfortable with the NFL. Jim Kelly's problem is just the opposite.
His 34-year-old throwing arm has developed tendinitis, but it didn't show against Washington. Kelly completed his first seven passes and was 9-of-12 overall for 141 yards and one touchdown during his two series.
"The shoulder felt excellent," Kelly said. "So far, so good."
Washington trailed 10-3 late in the third quarter when Gus Frerotte, the Redskins' No. 3 quarterback but easily the most successful Monday, led a seven-play, 52-yard touchdown drive.
In his coaching debut, Turner chose to go for a 2-point conversion, and William Bell ran it in to give Washington the lead with 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
Steve Christie's 33-yard field goal gave Buffalo a 13-11 lead with 9:56 left. The Redskins had a chance to win it on Jeff Jacke's 35-yard field goal attempt as time expired, but it hit the right upright.
In other NFL news:
Pittsburgh hopes pulling a contract offer off the table will get kicker Gary Anderson into training camp.
Anderson, who is refusing to honor the final year of his contract, was told Monday the Steelers have withdrawn their $812,000-a-year offer.
Linebacker Vinson Smith knows Chicago coach Dave Wannstedt from their days with the Dallas Cowboys, so he knows when his position as a starter is on the line. And since Smith missed a week of training camp and the Bears' exhibition opener because of a deep thigh bruise, he knows that time is now.
Smith returned to practice Monday but remains in jeopardy of losing his starting position to Ron Cox.
Expected to return to the Dallas offense in practice are starting wide receivers Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper, out with injured shoulders, along with starting center Mark Stepnoski, who had a knee injury.
The optimism that has surrounded the New England Patriots throughout this preseason is now being clouded with concern over injuries.
On the Patriots' third offensive play on Friday, running back Blair Thomas severely twisted his right ankle. He joined Marion Butts, expected to be the Patriots' top running back this season, on the sidelines. Butts is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Quarterback Steve Beuerlein says he'll play it safe with his strained back and may sit out the Cardinals' exhibition game Saturday against Chicago, especially since coach Buddy Ryan wants to see No. 3 quarterback Will Furrer and No. 4 quarterback Chris Swartz in action.
Beuerlein missed both practices Monday, explaining he has not practiced or thrown a ball since straining his back when he was hit while rolling out in the Cardinals' exhibition opener on Friday.