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Jerry Gray of the Washington Redskins poses for his 2009 NFL headshot at photo day in Landover, Md.
Well, the Washington Redskins aren't fun to watch on the field -- unless you're rooting for the opponent -- but the off-field drama just keeps getting better.
Team dysfunction hit a new level Wednesday when an assistant coach told reporters they should "go to the source" for a "yes or no" when reporting a story. In the same interview, he proceeded to utter an ambiguous "no" that failed to clear up anything.
Secondary coach Jerry Gray was asked: "Have you interviewed for the head coaching job with Washington?" His answer was clear: "No."
But Gray wouldn't repeat the denial, even shooing away reporters seeking clarification as he stood outside the trainers' room. A few minutes later, team spokesman Zack Bolno said that Gray's "no" actually meant "no comment."
The scene was the latest distraction in a Redskins season that can't end soon enough. There's been a retired bingo caller hired as a consultant, a head coach stripped of play-calling duties, a front office chief fired and a general manager hired. Now there's a question as to whether one of Jim Zorn's assistants has interviewed for Zorn's job _ even though the position is not yet vacant.
Gray is a minority candidate who would satisfy the Rooney Rule, assuming Zorn is fired at the end of the season. Interviewing him now would allow the Redskins to hire any candidate of their choosing -- Mike Shanahan is the favorite -- quickly after the final game.
After uttering his "no," Gray appeared to back it up by cautioning reporters who might "jump the gun." He referenced an erroneous report from earlier this season that he would be hired as the head coach at the University of Memphis.
"I never talked to the AD at the time," Gray said. "Go to the source. If the source says 'yes' or 'no,' and then you go on."
Gray listed Detroit, Houston and Buffalo as places where he has interviewed for the head coaching job in past years. Just to be clear that Washington is not on that list, Gray was asked again if he had interviewed with the Redskins.
He refused to answer this time, referencing only that he had met with Zorn to discuss the matter. When reporters asked Bolno to meet with Gray to clarify, Bolno reported that Gray's answer had changed to "no comment."
Gray did acknowledge that the whole saga was another off-the-field hurdle to set aside as the Redskins (4-10) prepare for Sunday night's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
"Jim and I have had a discussion, and the thing that we discuss is, 'Don't let this distract us about what we're doing,'" Gray said. "And that's been one of our main deals. I know that came up last week, 'What's going on with this staff?' We're together. Trust me. We're going to be together. We've got two more weeks to be together, and then whatever happens happens."
Players and coaches often state with pride how they are able to block out distractions, but even the biggest pair of blinders couldn't keep the Redskins totally focused during this season. Quarterback Jason Campbell said it showed in Monday night's 45-12 loss to the New York Giants, by far the team's worst game of the season.
"It just seemed like everything we've been going through just fell on us," Campbell said. "It was just a total of everything we've gone through all year long. Just all the uncertainty, different questions, distractions, whatever. Everything caught up with us in that one game."
Even so, Zorn said distractions can't be an excuse for a bad game.
"I'd like to say that was one of the factors, but that can never be used as a reason," Zorn said. "We have to play, and we have to play with the kind of passion and concern as though it were Game 1."