By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The Washington Redskins will have to continue their playoff push without another starting player, after linebacker Rocky McIntosh tore two major knee ligaments in Sunday's 22-10 win over New York at Giants Stadium.
McIntosh, in his first season as a starter, was making great strides, and his loss is another blow for a defense trying to overcome a spate of injuries and coping with the death of safety Sean Taylor. Coach Joe Gibbs was clearly pained by the McIntosh news.
"Rocky was playing great for us," Gibbs told reporters yesterday.
McIntosh, 25, left Sunday's game in the first quarter after bending his knee awkwardly in a pile, and an MRI exam yesterday revealed torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, a significant injury that keeps most players off the field for nine months to a year at least. It often takes 18 months or more before normal explosiveness returns.
Cornerback Carlos Rogers suffered the same injury in late October, which could compromise his ability to play in the first half of next season. The injuries to McIntosh and Rogers, coupled with Taylor's death, leave the Redskins' defense without three of its brightest young playmakers.
Bubba Tyer, Washington's director of sports medicine, said that McIntosh's left ACL will be reconstructed within the next three weeks after the swelling subsides and that the MCL may not need surgery. Rogers required surgery on both ligaments.
"It's really not swollen that much so we'll take a look at it next week," said Tyer, who declined to speculate about recovery time. "The docs will be back out here on Thursday and they'll decide when they want to do the surgery."
McIntosh, who declined to speak to reporters yesterday, was replaced by rookie sixth-round pick H.B. Blades on most downs Sunday night. The Redskins also have veteran reserve linebackers Randall Godfrey and Khary Campbell on the roster, and Godfrey in particular is an experienced run-stopper. The Redskins face a must-win game Sunday night against Minnesota, the top rushing team in the NFL.
McIntosh, a second-round pick in 2006, played primarily on special teams last season, slowly adjusting to the pace and complexity of the NFL game after starring at the University of Miami. He had a history of knee problems in college that resulted in some teams downgrading him in the draft. Tyer said that McIntosh's past problems centered on his right knee, on which he had arthroscopic surgery three times in a 12-month period.
Every week it seems as if the Redskins are placing a player on the season-ending, injured reserve list.
During the game against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 6, quarterback Jason Campbell was likely lost for the season, cornerback Fred Smoot escaped from the training room to return from a serious sickness, and the other starting cornerback, Shawn Springs, retrieved his equipment from an adjacent room and demanded to play despite severe back pain. Springs intercepted two passes in the game.
On Sunday night, as backup quarterback Todd Collins won in his first start in 10 years, Springs switched from cornerback to safety at times because of injuries to defensive backs John Eubanks and Pierson Prioleau. Lorenzo Alexander, a long shot to make the team as a defensive lineman, continued his breakthrough season on offense by shining as a reserve guard and tight end-tackle eligible in a heavy pass protection role against the NFL's premier pass rush. Backup tight end Todd Yoder was knocked from the game with a knee injury, while Blades filled in capably for McIntosh.
"H.B. came in [Sunday] night and played well," linebacker Marcus Washington said. "Lorenzo, who knows what position Lorenzo plays. Whenever we need a guy he just seems to go in and get it done. You just got to take your hat off to those guys."
While the Redskins' consistency and execution have been in question during this trying season, their effort has not. Gibbs continually praises their "fight" and drive and seemed as elated with Sunday's win as any during his second tenure with the club.
"To go through what we've gone through this season, with injuries and Sean's situation and just losing close games -- giving games away -- it speaks a lot to the guys we have on this team to never give up," center Casey Rabach said.
Players in their first or second seasons -- Alexander, tackle Stephon Heyer, defensive tackles Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston, safeties Reed Doughty and LaRon Landry, corners Eubanks and Leigh Torrence -- have been thrust into prominent roles, acquitting themselves well, particularly against the Giants. "I think that was one of our best efforts," Gibbs said.
Still, a four-game losing streak left the Redskins in need of assistance to reach the postseason. Finishing with two more wins -- and a 9-7 record -- would not be enough should the Saints (7-7) win their final two games and the Giants (9-5) beat either Buffalo or New England.
With the Vikings' 20-13 victory last night over the Bears, the Redskins will be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose Sunday at Minnesota.