Brunell Probable, Springs Is Out

Mark Brunell completed 22 straight passes on Sunday, but he also suffered an elbow injury that has kept him out of practice two days this week.
Mark Brunell completed 22 straight passes on Sunday, but he also suffered an elbow injury that has kept him out of practice two days this week. (By Joel Richardson -- The Washington Post)
By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 29, 2006

Although he missed his second straight practice because of an injured left elbow, quarterback Mark Brunell threw for a while and is scheduled to practice today. Cornerback Shawn Springs, meantime, will miss a fourth straight game with a groin/abdominal problem after visiting a specialist Wednesday.

Brunell is still listed as probable for the Washington Redskins' game Sunday against Jacksonville, his former team, while Springs's recovery from a groin strain could keep him out two weeks.

Brunell tossed the ball briefly yesterday but did not take part in drills and said the pain in his elbow, which was sliced open during Sunday's victory over the Houston Texans, was less severe. His left arm remained wrapped yesterday, but the bandages were less cumbersome. Brunell's biggest concern was avoiding an infection in the elbow -- that occurred in 2003 and sidetracked his final season in Jacksonville -- and he praised Washington's athletic trainers for treating the cut immediately.

The Redskins finish their work week today with what usually is a light practice, and Coach Joe Gibbs said Brunell will take part. Veteran Todd Collins continued to work with the first-team offense in Brunell's absence, but Bubba Tyer, the team's director of sports medicine, said he expects Brunell to be under center Sunday.

"From his past experience having gone through that [infection], he is concerned about it and it heightened our concern about it," Tyer said. "We're taking as much precaution as we can."

Brunell played for the Jaguars from 1995 to 2003, has a home and many friends in Jacksonville and plans to reside there when his playing career is complete. He has not missed a start because of injury since being acquired by the Redskins before the 2004 season and has played through several painful ailments including hamstring and knee problems.

The coaches installed their game plan with Brunell in mind and entered the season with the idea of sitting Brunell for practice judiciously given his age, 36, and importance to the team. Collins has not started an NFL game since 1997, and quarterback Jason Campbell has been inactive for every game since being drafted in the first round in 2005.

Springs has been out since undergoing surgery to repair an abdominal muscle tear in mid-August, and there is still no exact date set for his return. He worked hard with athletic trainers several weeks ago and was expected to return last week in Houston. But last week, early in his first full practice back, he suffered a groin strain and he has not practiced since.

On Wednesday, Springs traveled to Philadelphia to see William Meyers, the Drexel University physician who surgically reattached his abdominal muscle to his pelvic bone last month. That exam revealed only the groin strain suffered last week, and Meyers told the team that the original abdominal injury has healed. Springs is listed as week-to-week. "He'll be fine in time," Tyer said. "He'll be completely well and ready to go. We just don't have the exact time."

Springs worked hard before practice with the training staff yesterday, Tyer said, and is expected to continue vigorous individual workouts early next week, focusing on lateral agility and explosive movements as he was earlier this month. Once he progresses in those drills he will gradually work back into a full practice. The team has ruled out Springs only for Sunday's game, but sources with knowledge of the situation said that it would be difficult for him to return in time for the Week 5 game at the New York Giants.

"I feel pretty good," Springs said. "There's nothing new wrong with me, but I've got to let my groin heal up and then I'll be ready to go."

Springs's absence has been significant with the Redskins' secondary conceding big passing plays without him. Carlos Rogers and Kenny Wright, the starting cornerbacks with Springs out, have struggled at times with downfield coverage and pass-interference penalties, and the Jaguars' receivers are among the biggest in the NFL, with Reggie Williams, Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford all at least 6 feet 4.

Springs is Washington's best man-on-man defender and has displayed an ability to deny the ball to elite receivers since signing with the Redskins in 2004. Washington has allowed a pass of 30 yards or longer in each game and several long pass-interference penalties have keyed scoring drives.

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