By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Fitted with an altered pair of cleats to cushion his bruised right heel, Washington Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss practiced yesterday for the first time in two weeks and is listed as probable for tomorrow's game against Dallas.
Moss participated in full drills after team trainers modified one of his cleats to provide better comfort. They cut out the heel area and inserted a plastic cup to add extra padding, then taped it together. The alterations enabled the team's top receiver to test his heel while the Redskins (5-4) completed preparations to face the NFC East-leading Cowboys (8-1) in Irving, Tex.
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd will miss the remainder of the season after he broke his collarbone in practice this week, and wide receiver James Thrash will miss tomorrow's game because of a high-ankle sprain, so the Redskins were eager to determine if Moss could contribute.
"It feels better, but that don't mean it's healed," Moss said after practice at Redskins Park. "As long as the doctor says nothing else can hurt it, I've got to just try to gauge the pain. It'll be what it is. We all play with a certain amount of pain. Today I did a lot on it. That showed me a lot of good signs."
Moss bruised his heel in a 23-20 overtime victory over the New York Jets on Nov. 4. After sitting out the week of practice, Moss was inactive in last week's 33-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Moss, also inactive for an Oct. 7 game against the Detroit Lions because of a groin injury, experienced pain while wearing cleats and running until Washington's trainers made the "alterations to make the foot feel more comfortable while I was in there," he said.
The Redskins were pleased with Moss's workout.
"He ran pretty good with everything that was asked," said Al Saunders, associate head coach-offense. "He went out and practiced, so we're happy about that."
Quarterback Jason Campbell, who has worked with a makeshift receiving corps lately, was pleased to have Moss back on the field.
"He looked real good when he had opportunities to run," Campbell said. "As it got longer into practice we took him out of there, they didn't want him to overdo it, but he responded very well."
The Redskins exercised caution before clearing the seven-year veteran to return to practice. Namely, they had several physicians review the results of Moss's MRI exam, Coach Joe Gibbs said.
"When you're talking about big plays, missing big plays, he's a big-play guy for us, and it would be great to get him back," Gibbs said.
Slowed because of injuries, Moss only has 24 receptions for 297 yards (a 12.4-yard average) and no touchdowns in seven games. But defenses have to account for Moss, who set a franchise record with 1,483 yards receiving in 2005, because of his speed and skills, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said.
"With him being on the field, he's going to get a lot of coverage with his speed and the way he makes plays," said Randle El, who has remained in the lineup despite a hamstring injury. "If he's out there, if he can go, it'll be good."
Of course, Moss's heel has not healed completely, so he could have a limited role against the Cowboys.
"That'll be dependent on how he feels on Sunday," Saunders said. "Hopefully, he'll feel better [today] and then he'll feel better on Sunday. And if he can take the whole load then that would be great. But realistically, he hasn't practiced now for two weeks. You'll probably limit his role somewhat, but he'll get as many snaps as he can take."
Moss said he couldn't predict his level of effectiveness against Dallas after his second long layoff of the season because of an injury.
"You never know. I haven't done much," Moss said. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can. If I can be available, I'm going to try to be available."
Redskins Notes: Strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington, who has missed four of the past five games because of recurring hamstring problems, participated in full drills throughout the week and is optimistic about playing against the rival Cowboys.
"I was able to get a good week in. I prepared like I'm going to play, and I'll go down there Sunday ready to go," Washington said. "You always want to be on the field, at least I do. But if there's one you really want to be a part of it's this one." . . .
After a week spent preparing for the Cowboys, Gibbs said the Redskins will face a challenge among their most difficult of the season. "When you're playing a team like this, you watch 'em on film, I don't think there's much you have to say about it [to the team] because they're very, very good," Gibbs said. "They're very, very good across the board. Their record shows it, the stats show it and our guys know it."