By Howard Bryant and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Washington Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell missed practice yesterday for the first time this season because of soreness in his lacerated left elbow, raising the possibility that he might not play Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While Coach Joe Gibbs said he expected Brunell to play -- he was listed as probable on yesterday's injury report -- the quarterback was less definitive about his status. "I'm day-to-day," Brunell said. "That's all I really know right now."
Meanwhile, cornerback Shawn Springs went to Philadelphia to undergo another round of tests on his surgically repaired abdominal muscle, creating further uncertainty about when he might return to the lineup.
Brunell received three stitches resembling a half moon on a cut on the tip of his throwing elbow after Sunday's 31-15 win at Houston. Both Gibbs and associate head coach Al Saunders said Brunell is suffering less from mobility problems than from a high degree of pain when throwing.
A decision will be made today as to whether he will practice for the rest of the week, Gibbs said. Brunell wore a long bandage and wrap immobilizing his left arm yesterday. As he watched practice, Brunell used only his right hand to catch or pick up footballs.
Under Gibbs, players who miss practice usually have a lesser chance of playing. But missing a week of practice would not preclude Brunell from starting Sunday. Last Dec. 24, Brunell was knocked out of the Redskins' 35-20 victory over the New York Giants because of an injured knee. He did not practice leading up to the season finale the following week at Philadelphia, but Brunell played the entire game against the Eagles and the Redskins clinched a playoff spot with a 31-20 win.
"We want to give it every opportunity to get healed. . . . We held him out, but he was there to watch everything," Gibbs said. "We might wait one more day. We want to give him every chance to get that thing calmed down as best we can and more time to stay off of it. It'll depend on how comfortable he is with the game plan."
Backup quarterback Todd Collins took all the snaps with the first offensive team yesterday, at first glance suggesting something of a break with Gibbs's previously stated contingency in case of an injury to Brunell.
In the week before the season opener, Gibbs had said the Redskins would handle their backup quarterback situation by calling Collins and Jason Campbell co-backups -- even though NFL rules mandate that teams designate second- and third-string quarterbacks. The distinction was an important one, because the third quarterback is inactive on game days except in the rare case of injury to both quarterbacks.
Thus, Collins being named the team's No. 2 quarterback behind Brunell not only meant that Campbell had lost the training camp competition to Collins but also that Campbell -- even in the case of a blowout -- would not have the opportunity to play at all on game day. Since joining the Redskins as a rookie last season, Campbell has never been on the active roster on game day.
In explaining his quarterback formula, Gibbs had said that if Brunell were to be injured during a game, Collins would finish the game. However, if the Redskins had to practice without Brunell in the week leading up to a game, Gibbs had said Campbell would be named the starter.
But in Brunell's absence yesterday, it was Collins and not Campbell who worked exclusively with the first team.
Gibbs said the quarterback formula remains intact. The reason Collins took the practice snaps yesterday, he said, was because the Redskins were preparing as if Brunell were going to play Sunday.
"We're thinking Mark's going to play," Gibbs said. "So we felt like Todd would be in staying with our regular plan we started off with, figuring that Mark wouldn't have any problems playing in the game."
Collins said he was preparing for his week the same as in previous weeks.
"Really, the only difference is on the field, getting the snaps," Collins said. "I really haven't heard anything about Mark. I haven't talked to coach about it, so I don't really know anything that you guys don't know."
Springs, who was listed on yesterday's injury report as doubtful, remains in limbo. He left Redskins Park at 11:30 a.m., accompanied by Bubba Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine. They were to meet with William Meyers, the Drexel University physician who surgically reattached Springs's abdominal muscle to his pelvic bone Aug. 15. It was unclear what tests or procedures Springs underwent with Meyers or if his setback last week -- he left practice after a few minutes of individual drills on Sept. 20 -- has further derailed his progress.
Tyer said that Springs had prepared to play "a few plays" Sunday in Houston. Assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said Springs had not suffered another setback.
After the surgery, the Redskins described the procedure as "minor," but by being out Sunday against the Jaguars, Springs will have missed a quarter of the season. Outside of the days leading up to and immediately following the Redskins' 27-10 loss in Dallas on Sept. 17, Springs has not been close to taking the field with the kind of confidence that would suggest he was near 100 percent.