WASHINGTON – Willie Parker became the odd man out in the Washington Redskins' three-way veteran running back competition Saturday when he was released as the team set its 53-man roster a week before the start of the regular season.
Parker was among 21 players cut before the 6 p.m. deadline. The Redskins also made a trade, sending backup cornerback Justin Tryon to the Indianapolis Colts for an undisclosed draft pick.
One of the highlights of the Redskins preseason was supposed to be an intriguing battle between former Pro Bowl running backs Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Parker — all trying to prove they aren't past their prime.
It turned into a rout. Portis, who turned 29 on Wednesday, showed up at training camp in better shape and more focused than in years past. He never came close to losing his grip on the starting job, leaving Johnson and Parker to battle for the No. 2 spot.
Johnson, 30, and Parker, 29, had similar stats in preseason and similar liabilities — neither is great in pass protection and neither plays special teams — but Parker never showed the burst that earned him the name "Fast Willie" when he was in his prime with Pittsburgh from 2005-07.
Johnson did make the cut, joining rookie Keiland Williams and fullback Mike Sellers in the backfield.
Coach Mike Shanahan's roster also includes three quarterbacks, a departure from the usual two he preferred to keep when he was coaching the Denver Broncos. Donovan McNabb's history with injuries — which includes a sprained ankle that has kept him out of practice for two weeks — no doubt played a part in the coach's decision to keep both second-stringer Rex Grossman and third-stringer John Beck, who recently signed a two-year contract extension.
Only two of six draft picks made the roster. First-round selection Trent Williams will be the opening day starter at left tackle, and fourth-rounder Perry Riley earned a spot at linebacker. Sixth-round pick Dennis Morris was traded to St. Louis last week, but he wasn't going to make the team anyway. Seventh-rounders Terrence Austin, Erik Cook and Selvish Capers were all cut, although they could be signed to the practice squad Sunday.
Receiver Anthony Armstrong, whose resume includes stops at the Intense Football League and the Arena Football League, finally made his first regular season roster at age 27. Armstrong had such a good camp that he was rested for the final preseason game and appears set as the No. 3 receiver behind 31-year-old Santana Moss and 38-year-old Joey Galloway. He's certainly moved ahead of third-year receiver Devin Thomas and veteran Roydell Williams, who both made the team despite inconsistent performances in camp and preseason.
Another interesting choice at receiver is undrafted free agent Brandon Banks, a 5-foot-7 speedster who had a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown in preseason but also displayed a disturbing knack for fumbling. Banks' inclusion speaks volumes to the Redskins' overall lack of quality depth at receiver, perhaps the weakest position on the team.
Shanahan did not comment on the cuts or the makeup of his roster, which could see more changes over the coming days even as the team begins full-fledged preparation for the season opener Sept. 12 against Dallas.
The full list of cuts: WR Austin, QB Richard Bartel, T Capers, S Tyrone Carter, OL Cook, FB Carey Davis, LB Curtis Gatewood, NT Howard Green, LB Robert Henson, WR Shay Hodge, LB Rob Jackson, T Clint Oldenburg, RB Parker, OL Chad Rinehart, CB Ramzee Robinson, T William Robinson, S Anderson Russell, DE Darrion Scott, RB Ryan Torain, TE Lee Vickers and WR Bobby Wade.
Henson and Oldenburg were waived-injured. Both suffered knee injuries in the Redskins' preseason finale Thursday against Arizona.