ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -The Washington Redskins signed free agent Stuart Schweigert on Monday, giving the team an extra option in the defensive backfield as it contemplates moving LaRon Landry from free safety to strong safety.
Schweigert is a free safety, having started 42 games in four seasons with the Oakland Raiders. He lost his starting job late last season and was released by the Raiders last month.
``It feels like a thousand-pound bear's been lifted off my chest. It's time for a fresh start,'' Schweigert said. ``In Oakland, I felt as if my time was up there. It was a deal where I wasn't in their future. I feel like I'm in the Redskins' future.''
Schweigert said he's been told that Landry is the projected starter at strong safety. Landry finished last season at free safety after the death of Sean Taylor, with Reed Doughty starting at strong safety.
Defensive coordinate Greg Blache said it was too early to say where Landry will line up.
``He could start as a free safety or a strong safety,'' Blache said. ``Right now, there's no need to rush into that.''
Landry was one of two players - along with cornerback Shawn Springs - unexpectedly absent Monday as the Redskins began another set of offseason practices. Coach Jim Zorn said he had not heard from either player. Although the practices are technically voluntary, unexcused absences do not sit well.
``They had the opportunity to be here,'' Zorn said. ``They just didn't show.''
Among the excused absentees was receiver Santana Moss, who was ill following a weekend-long, multiparty celebration of his 29th birthday.
Zorn also said that safety Vernon Fox has undergone left knee surgery for the second time this offseason. Fox had surgery in January and re-injured the knee during minicamp last month.
Fox joined receiver Antwaan Randle El, sixth-round draft pick safety Kareem Moore, linebacker Rocky McIntosh and cornerback Carlos Rogers as players unable to practice because of knee surgeries. All except Rogers expect to be ready by the start of training camp next month.
Monday was also the first Redskins appearance by defensive end Erasmus James, the former first-round draft pick acquired last week in a trade with the Minnesota Vikings. James is also recovering from a knee injury and hopes to be healthy for training camp.
``The thing that I'm told is that he's at 90 percent,'' Zorn said. ``I don't know what that means yet, because maybe at 100 percent he's wild. That's what I'm hoping for.''
James said he hopes to get back to his college weight - 255-260 pounds - after playing at 275 pounds for the Vikings.
``My experience in Minnesota hasn't been the best because of injuries,'' James said, ``and not being able to play at the weight I wanted to play at.''
To make room for Schweigert on the roster, the Redskins released linebacker Rian Wallace.

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