By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The day after the Washington Redskins' worst loss in 46 years brought news that cornerback Carlos Rogers had suffered a season-ending knee injury and of meetings between groups of players and Coach Joe Gibbs.
Tests showed that Rogers tore his right anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the 52-7 loss Sunday to New England. He will undergo surgery when the swelling subsides in a few weeks and Gibbs will consider signing a free agent cornerback or promoting a cornerback from the practice squad to replace him.
Gibbs spent part of the day yesterday meeting with players to discuss Sunday's loss. "What I said today means a lot to me," Gibbs said. "We had a lot of guys talking to the media, come across the doorstep and had guys meeting in different groups. It says a lot about them. A lot of places, I'm sure the guys just go home. They have a bad day and just go home. These guys care about it."
They'll move forward without Rogers. Such injuries often carry a recovery time of at least nine months, and Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine, compared Rogers's injury to the one safety Pierson Prioleau suffered on the opening kickoff of the 2006 season. Prioleau has been able to play regularly all of this season.
"I think he looks good for next season," Tyer said. "We'll just take it through the offseason and get him going and hopefully get him ready for training camp. That will be our goal."
Cornerback Fred Smoot, who has missed three games with a hamstring injury, will return for Sunday's game against the New York Jets, Tyer said, and he and veteran Shawn Springs will start in Rogers's absence. Rogers, the ninth overall pick in the 2005 draft out of Auburn, was using crutches and wore a large cast on his right knee yesterday at Redskins Park. He was injured when he collided with teammate London Fletcher on a tackle on New England's first drive of the game, and immediately collapsed as his right leg was bent. Rogers declined to comment but is expected to address reporters today.
Rogers, 26, has been a starting cornerback since early in his rookie season and was in essence the top cornerback even after the secondary was upgraded in the offseason. The coaches often rotated Springs and Smoot on one side, but Rogers was on the field for every play. He appeared much more comfortable in Washington's defensive scheme this season, and, although he still had some lapses on longer passes, he was more consistent after dropping a number of potential interceptions in 2006.
He is the only cornerback on the team with an interception, returning a pass 61 yards for a touchdown against Detroit. Rogers, Smoot and Springs formed one of the more effective cornerback trios in the NFL, but without him the defensive backs will be tested.
"We love his attitude, he's very competitive and I think he is continuing to mature and get better and better," Gibbs said. "That's something we're going to have to overcome. Somebody else is going to have to step in and play well."
Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, made improving the secondary an offseason priority after the Redskins allowed more passes of 20 or more yards than any other team last season, and opposing quarterbacks threw 30 touchdowns to just six interceptions. Smoot was signed as a free agent to push Springs and Rogers, while veteran David Macklin was signed for depth and safety LaRon Landry was selected with the sixth overall pick.
The unit was highly effective before the loss in New England, shutting down Detroit and Green Bay when both were the top-ranked passing attacks in the NFL. Smoot, however, has been ailing much of the season with a lingering hamstring problem.
Smoot, who was selected 45th overall by Washington in 2001 then left as a free agent in 2005, missed two games in September because of the strain, and then aggravated it against Arizona. "Every time I keep coming back I keep setting myself back," Smoot said. "It's one of those things that's real frustrating for me."
Smoot said he wanted badly to play against the Patriots, but after a pregame workout was ruled out by the medical staff. He is unsure how much work he will take in practice early this week, but intends to play Sunday. "I got to get back, point-blank," Smoot said. "I can't sit here and say, 'Carlos is out and I can still afford to sit out.' We can't do that."
Tyer and Gibbs agreed that Smoot is ready to return. "We've got to continue to work on his strength work and he can get that done in practice this week and be ready to play," Tyer said.
Springs has had recurring injuries in past seasons, and Williams originally planned this season to use him judiciously in the first half of games, trying to ensure he can get through the season injury-free. But that rotation likely ceases now.
Leigh Torrence, who had brief stints with Green Bay and Atlanta, had played sparingly this season -- with Prioleau handling a lot of nickel duties -- but now he will surely be called on more. He made his NFL debut for the Redskins last season. At 29, Macklin has rarely been active, but played Sunday and should see more action now, too. The Redskins are high on two practice-squad corners -- John Eubanks, who was here last season but did not play, and undrafted rookie Byron Westbrook, 22 -- who could join the active roster. The team will also explore options from its emergency list for depth and is expected to work out several free agents today, as is the norm.
Eubanks, 24, said he hoped for a promotion and that the coaches said they probably will call him this morning to let him know their plans. Eubanks and Westbrook, brother of Philadelphia star tailback Brian Westbrook and a DeMatha product, have strong special-teams skills as well.
"We'll look at all the options there," Gibbs said.
Redskins Notes: The offense has dropped to 28th in the NFL. . . . Return specialist Rock Cartwright (quadriceps strain) has a "good chance" to play Sunday, Tyer said, while linebacker Rocky McIntosh (pinched nerves in shoulder), linebacker H.B. Blades (knee sprain), tight end Todd Yoder (ankle) and tailback Clinton Portis (bruised hand) are set to play, Tyer said. . . . Gibbs reiterated that he had no issues with the way the Patriots scored late in the game. "You cannot let yourself get in a position like that," he said.
Staff writer Paul Tenorio contributed to this report.