Redskins Fighting Aches and Pains

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Washington Redskins were without four of their premier offensive players for much of yesterday's practice because of injuries -- quarterback Mark Brunell, tailback Clinton Portis and wide receivers Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El -- and starting middle linebacker Lemar Marshall did not practice. With only Brunell certain to practice tomorrow, Coach Joe Gibbs said it is too soon to determine how many will play Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Of the group, only Randle El (heel) participated in team drills, shagging punts on special teams, with Brunell (rib muscle) throwing a bit on the side. Portis (left ankle) and Moss (left hamstring) walked gingerly to the field about 20 minutes into practice and did only light individual work. Marshall (left ankle) was on the field but did not take part in drills.

Merely trying to run the offense in practice this week would be difficult enough with so many key players out, Gibbs said, and facing the Cowboys without their top players would not bode well for the 2-5 club, which is last in the NFC East after three straight defeats.

"With that group, we'll just have to see as the week goes," Gibbs said of his injured players.

The Redskins return to practice tomorrow, and Brunell, who also sat out last week's abbreviated on-field schedule, said he will be able to participate fully. Reserve quarterback Jason Campbell took much of the work last week, a first for the 2005 first-round pick, and Gibbs said that Campbell and veteran backup Todd Collins each worked with the first team yesterday. Gibbs said that the rotation for Sunday's game remains unchanged, with Brunell the starter, Collins No. 2 and Campbell designated the third quarterback.

When the Redskins' offense has moved the ball this season, Portis has been the fulcrum. He missed the first game against Dallas -- a 27-10 defeat in Week 2 -- and overcame shoulder injuries from the preseason to lead the attack in consecutive victories over Houston and Jacksonville, but carried only 26 times the past two games. Should Portis be unable to play, Gibbs said he is confident in the other backs, including T.J. Duckett, who has carried just five times, all in the first game against Dallas.

"It's all right. It's coming around," Portis said. "I'm out of the cast. I did a little work moving around laterally, just seeing how it feels. It feels okay. I'm sure we'll do a little more on Wednesday having an extra day [of practice] this week. Today, I didn't try a lot. We'll come out and see what I can do on Wednesday and go from there."

Moss, who has 493 receiving yards, more than double anyone else on the roster, seemed less certain about his ability to heal through the week. Hamstring injuries can easily be aggravated, and Moss has battled the problem in the past. He is getting regular treatment but said he is often unable to guess how the hamstring will feel from one day to the next.

"I'm concerned because you want to do a lot," Moss said, recalling his previous injuries. "But being a guy who has dealt with [hamstring injuries], these things, they will hurt you later. You go out and try to be Superman on it and, you know what, just because you pushed me when you weren't supposed to push me, it prolonged the healing process. So I don't want to do that. But we'll take it day-to-day. Hopefully, it will get better and I will be able to play Sunday."

Randle El said his injury is impossible to ignore, causing problems when he tries to run routes and return punts. He, too, will have to work daily with the training staff to try to play this weekend.

"I don't want to do too much on it, then I can't go the rest of the week," said Randle El, who has made big plays despite a limited role in the offense. "Hopefully, it'll progress more than what it was today. It's overall, just the way I run, period. It's overall. Hopefully, it'll calm down a little bit and I'll be able to go in the next couple of days."

The Redskins' defense was just starting to get healthy, with tackles Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave'a practicing fully and both starting cornerbacks -- Carlos Rogers and Shawn Springs -- practicing together for the first time this season. But Marshall is the quarterback of the defense, calling out assignments and keeping everyone aligned, and his absence was significant against the Indianapolis Colts. He wore a walking cast briefly before that game and was expected to play, but could not pass a pregame fitness test.

While the players spent the weekend traveling or at home with their families, the coaches continued to work long hours trying to right the team's many problems. The Redskins have produced just 14 offensive touchdowns through seven games, are ranked 26th in total defense (and last in many key categories), have the most penalty yardage in the NFL and have yet to defeat an NFC opponent.

"What we tried to do is analyze everything up to this point," Gibbs said. "How we won football games and how we lost. It goes from everything to penalty issues to playing poorly in the second half. We try to do a really good job analyzing ourselves and present that to the team and I think we had a good three or four days of work for the coaches. And for the players I think it was important for them to get a break."

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