Sherman Lewis goes from bingo caller to Redskins

Oct 7, 2009 - 11:26 PM By JOSEPH WHITE AP Sports Writer

ASHBURN, Va.(AP) -- Retired for nearly five years, Sherman Lewis was about to go to the senior center to call a bingo game when the Washington Redskins phoned.

Lewis, therefore, left behind one set of "I's" - I-18? I-20? - and instead became a "fresh set of eyes," inserting himself in an awkward situation with a struggling team.

Less than 24 hours after getting the call at his home in the outer Detroit suburbs, the longtime NFL assistant was on the field Wednesday observing Redskins practice - with all sides trying not to portray his presence as a vote of no confidence in coach Jim Zorn.

"I had to go to the senior center and cancel my bingo calling," said the 67-year-old Lewis, who last worked in the NFL with the Detroit Lions during the 2004 season. "And I had to cancel my Meals on Wheels today."

Lewis' new itinerary included a flight to Washington on Tuesday and evening meetings with owner Dan Snyder and executive vice president for football operations Vinny Cerrato. The front office hired Lewis to be a consultant - a "fresh set of eyes," in Cerrato's oft-repeated words - for an offense that has yet to score consistently since Zorn became coach last year.

Lewis then met with Zorn for the first time, and the two watched film from the team's 16-13 victory over Tampa Bay. Among the topics of discussion: Lewis stressed he doesn't plan to be a head-coach-in-waiting, on standby to take over if the team continues to flounder.

"I talked to Jim about it last night, just to let him know that I'm just here to help," Lewis said. "That's all I'm here for. I wasn't planning on coaching, so I'm not looking for anybody's job. I just thought it'd be a nice challenge. I thought it'd be a change for me, and I thought I might be able to help."

Still, the tension was evident at Redskins Park. Offensive coordinator Sherman Smith echoed a familiar sentiment: The basics of the offense are just fine.

"I don't think he's going to tell us something we don't already know," Smith said. "I think we're doing the scheme the right way. If he sees something in our scheme that we don't see, I hope he can tell us. We think it's about the execution. ... The players are saying the same thing."

The open question is whether the Redskins, who are 2-2 despite averaging 14 points per game, have the offensive talent to succeed. Unless Lewis can block or catch, there's only so much he can do to help a fragile offensive line or a receiving corps that remains overly reliant on Santana Moss.

"I don't feel like it's going to change a whole lot," Moss said. "But you never know what he has in store for us."

Lewis' role is a vague one. He'll watch film, go to practice and sit in the upstairs coaches' booth during games, using his extensive knowledge of the West Coast offense to make suggestions. He won't be calling the plays - that's still Zorn's job.

"Listen, he's not coaching," Zorn said. "He's here to observe. He's here to have a set of eyes and he should look at things that maybe we don't see, and that's really what I want from him."

Zorn said he wasn't looking for help, but he doesn't want pride to get in the way of accepting it. Lewis, after all, had an accomplished career as an assistant coach for more than two decades in the NFL. He was part of three Super Bowl championship teams in San Francisco and one in Green Bay.

"When the suggestion was made, I was open to it," Zorn said. "I just want to make sure that I don't have so much pride in having to have all the answers that somebody can't come in and look and see what I'm doing."

Still, the news added more drama to a team that never seems to be in short supply. Even running back Clinton Portis, who has the tongue-in-cheek title of "assistant general manager" because of his close relationship with Snyder, said he was out of the loop on this one.

"I got fired," Portis said with a laugh. "They released me from that duty. Right now, I'm just a part-time running back."

NOTES: P Hunter Smith (groin) says he won't know until Friday or Saturday whether he can punt in Sunday's game against Carolina. Glenn Pakulak, signed to the practice squad on Tuesday, will be promoted to the active roster if Smith can't kick. ... DT Anthony Montgomery (knee) didn't practice. DT Cornelius Griffin (elbow) was limited. ... Hanging in Smith's locker is an advertisement featuring "The Wizard of Oz." CB Fred Smoot is labeled as the Scarecrow, LS Ethan Albright as the Tin Man, C Casey Rabach as the Cowardly Lion, K Shaun Suisham as Toto and Smith as Dorothy. "Because of the red shoes," said Smith, whose burgundy shoes caused a stir during training camp.

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