By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 2008
After five preseason games and eight in the regular season, the Redskins
are limping into their bye week. But first they must face the 5-2 Steelers.
As practice began the other day at Redskins Park, quarterback Jason Campbell quickly noticed many of his teammates were not participating. It seemed most of Washington's top players needed a break because of injuries, and that could be a problem with a game Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"You really couldn't help but notice" how many key performers sat out Wednesday, Campbell said yesterday. "You always have some guys out because they need a little extra time, but I haven't seen it like that in a long time. Right now, we just have a lot of guys who are trying to get their bodies back healthy. And with Pittsburgh coming up, we're definitely going to need them."
After five preseason games and eight in the regular season, the Redskins could use a long break as many players are hobbled by injuries. Washington's bye week occurs after it hosts Pittsburgh at FedEx Field, and players are eagerly anticipating the time off.
First, however, Washington faces a major test against one of the AFC's top teams. Despite being weakened by injuries, the Redskins must push through the pain and make a strong statement against the Steelers, several veterans said.
"You know, we've been going strong for a long time now, and you're going to have injuries the longer you go," said backup running back Ladell Betts, sidelined the previous two games because of a sprained left knee and also ruled out of Monday's game.
"We played five preseason games and we're going into our ninth regular season game, so that's 14 games. That's a long stretch, so guys are definitely looking forward to the break, but we're looking forward to Monday night. Take care of business, then rest."
The Redskins (6-2) and Steelers (5-2) have records that are among the best in the NFL, but Washington could have to juggle on offense and defense unless many players heal in time for kickoff.
In addition to Betts, cornerback Shawn Springs (calf) and defensive end Jason Taylor (surgery) have been ruled out. Taylor had a second procedure Sunday on his left calf, having it lanced to drain fluid from an infection, and will be reevaluated after the bye week. He initially underwent emergency surgery Sept. 22 to relieve a buildup of pressure known as acute compartment syndrome, and has taken antibiotics to treat a strep infection, Coach Jim Zorn said.
Springs will miss his fourth game, and third in a row, because of a left calf injury he suffered in the second half of a Week 4 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Springs also sat out the season-opening loss to the New York Giants because of a shin injury.
"We're definitely missing some key guys, but you never want to look at it like one guy or two guys is going to make that difference" in winning or losing, cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "You know you're going to have injuries, so it's all about having people step up when guys go down. That's the only thing you can do. You're not going to give up. You're still going to play the game."
Washington played without Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels (knee) in its 25-17 victory over Detroit on Sunday. The Redskins' defense was without three starters: Springs, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (shoulder) and rookie strong safety Chris Horton (ankle).
Samuels experienced discomfort in pregame warmups, ending his streak at 73 consecutive starts in regular season games. "I was trying to think of the last time I missed one," Samuels said. "It's not something I ever want to do, you always want to be out there for your teammates, but sometimes you have to be smart and rest. And with the Steelers this week, I definitely wanted to give myself every chance to be ready."
An MRI exam Monday revealed a cartilage problem but no damage, Samuels said. "I'm playing," he said.
Griffin and Horton also plan to return to the lineup. The most productive member of the Redskins' 2008 draft class, Horton also sat out against Detroit after having warmed up. He thought his ankle was sound enough for him to contribute, but safeties coach Steve Jackson "told me no way," Horton said. "It's one of those things where you only can do what your body will allow you to do.
"If I could have played last week, I would have loved to. But things happen and you can't do anything about it. You don't want to go out there and have the possibility of reinjuring it or something like that. Any time you get a time for your body to heal, it's only going to help you help the team. Even for guys who haven't missed any games yet, time also helps those little, nagging injuries."
The Redskins hope running back Clinton Portis (ankle) and wide receiver Santana Moss (hamstring) have nothing more than minor injuries. Moss was slowed by hamstring, groin and heel injuries last season, but his current hamstring problem is "nothing like that," he said. "I'm not even thinking about it like that. It's just football, and you're going have stuff like this in football. But as far as last year, it's not like that."
Against the Lions, Portis rushed for 126 yards in his fifth consecutive game with at least 100 yards rushing, tying a Redskins record he already shared. The league's leading rusher with 944 yards, Portis has gained at least 120 yards in five consecutive games twice during his career, joining O.J. Simpson in holding that NFL mark. The Redskins are second in the league with an average of 155.2 yards per game.
Moss had nine receptions -- including a 50-yard touchdown in the third quarter -- for 140 yards and also returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Lions. He has 42 receptions and is fifth in the NFL with 658 yards receiving. He has five touchdown catches.
Moss, who only has two punt returns this season, was named the NFC special teams player of the week. The touchdown was Moss's third on a punt return in his career. He last accomplished the feat against the San Diego Chargers in the 2002 season while he was a member of the New York Jets.
"Clinton and Santana, those guys are two of our top guys," Campbell said. "We'll need them against Pittsburgh, and I'm pretty confident they'll play. Everyone knows this is a big game for us."