By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
As his teammates cleaned out their lockers yesterday, injured Redskins wide receiver David Patten made a surprise pronouncement: He says for the last five weeks he was healthy enough to play.
The news carried significant weight because the Redskins' inability to develop a second wide receiver threat in his absence was a major concern for Coach Joe Gibbs and his offensive staff and perhaps the primary reason that the Redskins were not able to advance further in the postseason.
Patten came to the Redskins as a free agent from New England on March 4, 2005, to provide a speedy attack with Santana Moss and played in the first nine games before having season-ending knee surgery a week before Thanksgiving. He was placed on injured reserve and lost for the season Nov. 18.
"It was one thing if I was hurt, but I felt 100 percent on the sidelines and I couldn't play," Patten said. "It was one thing that was out of my control. It was frustrating to see us go down like that, but we're right there. No one expected us to do what we did this year, so we have to build off that. This offseason is going to decide what kind of team we are. We're going to see who's really upset about the shortcoming this year."
Patten said he'd been playing injured for a few weeks before being shut down by the medical staff. In 2004 with the Patriots, he caught 44 passes for 800 yards. Yet through the first nine games with the Redskins, Patten caught 22 passes for 217 yards, with a long of 32 yards. Since 2002 in New England, Patten had caught at least two passes each season for 35 yards.
"I think what we were looking at there when we made the decision was when you have the surgery, [it] could have been anything from four to six weeks," Gibbs said. "We weren't going to get into the playoffs if we lost any of those games. We were in a situation where we couldn't afford to hold that spot. We certainly would have liked to have had him."
Without Patten, even during the five-game winning streak that propelled the Redskins into the playoffs, the lack of a second legitimate threat at wide receiver was the biggest offensive concern. In fact, until James Thrash hauled in a 41-yard pass from Mark Brunell in the Jan. 1 game against Philadelphia, the Redskins had gone two games without a reception from a wide receiver other than Moss.
"The bottom line is that we had other guys that were in there and were more than capable of getting the job done, and for whatever reason, we came up short," Patten said. "If I had been in there, we still could have come up short. Who's to say? But I did feel like I could have helped the team."
Patten believes he could have played just a few weeks after being placed on injured reserve, perhaps Dec. 4 at St. Louis.
"I felt like I was ready to go Week 12 or 13," he said. "I felt like I could have played, but unfortunately, the decision was made early on because you just can't tell with injuries, and at the time we needed the roster spot."Woes on the Road
The common lament as players headed into the offseason was the difficulty of playing two playoff games on the road. Though the Redskins beat the Buccaneers in Tampa in a wild-card game, the players believed having a home game -- or, better yet, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs -- would have made a significant difference.
"I know that [the Seahawks'] crowd helped them a lot," said defensive end Phillip Daniels. "I'm telling you, I couldn't hear anything on the line of scrimmage. I know that had to help them, to have their fans behind them, waving the towels and everything. That's what we need, to have our fans behind us, playing a playoff game at our place."Empty Feeling
Walking to his car, Moss accepted congratulations for his first Pro Bowl invitation. Moss enjoyed a breakout season with 1,483 yards, a Redskins' single-season record, yet still wasn't much interested in revisiting a season that ended without a Super Bowl win.
"It's over with. What's done is done. You can chalk it up," Moss said. "You can do that as long as you want to, but every player on this team is trying to get to that game that Seattle is going to next weekend. If you're not there, you can pat yourself on the back and say a job well done, but there's always going to be some emptiness in your heart knowing you got so close and didn't make it." . . . Gibbs said he has not decided when the team will begin working out, but the earliest date set by the NFL is March 20. It is probable that the Redskins will begin workouts a week or two after, since they played two weeks into the postseason.