Redskins head into their break amid much frustration, and Cooley's injury status

Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley will have surgery on a broken bone in his right leg Wednesday, but he said on his Twitter account that he might miss only four weeks.
Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley will have surgery on a broken bone in his right leg Wednesday, but he said on his Twitter account that he might miss only four weeks. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 2009

With the Washington Redskins headed into a bye week with a disappointing 2-5 record, the team's executive vice president of football operations, Vinny Cerrato, said Tuesday he felt like he assembled a roster capable of making the playoffs but added that he feels as if his job is on the line. Coach Jim Zorn characterized the overall mood on the team as "super-frustrating" and said he could never have predicted some of the events that have marred the first seven weeks "on the field and off the field."

Now, the Redskins and their fans must prepare for at least the next month without Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley, who will have surgery on a broken bone in his right leg Wednesday. Though the procedure may prevent Cooley from missing the rest of the season -- something Zorn and team officials felt was probable earlier Tuesday -- the injury was just the latest blow to a team that, following Monday night's 27-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, was already reeling.

"Frustrating and disappointing with 2-5," Cerrato told reporters at Redskins Park. "It's not where we expected to be. I know [owner Daniel Snyder] is disappointed for the fans. Everyone's disappointed for the fans. We need to regroup during this bye, and come out in the last nine games and improve."

That charge became more difficult given Cooley's injury, a chip off the bottom of his right tibia that Zorn said early Tuesday afternoon would cost him six to eight weeks. Zorn said, given that, he would likely place the tight end on injured reserve, ending his season.

But by evening, Cooley had received word that the injury might not be as bad as originally thought, according to a team source. He used his Twitter account to say: "3 pins go in the ankle tomorrow. Hopefully be back in 4 weeks. Thanks for all the support."

Even with the potentially improved prognosis, Cooley's injury is coupled with season-ending ailments to Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels and starting right guard Randy Thomas. That series of events puts an unproductive offense -- one that is tied for 28th in the league with 13.7 points per game and hasn't yet surpassed 17 points in a single outing -- in an even more precarious position. The offensive line is fragile, and quarterback Jason Campbell's favorite target -- Cooley leads the team with 29 catches -- will be out at least a month. "The bottom line is to win," Zorn said. "And nobody really cares that guys get injured. They feel bad, but the team moves on."

How that will happen is unclear. Washington doesn't play again until Nov. 8 at Atlanta, and Zorn gave the players off until next Monday. But the poor results so far will follow the players and coaches.

The first seven weeks of the season included losses to two teams -- Detroit and Kansas City -- that have beaten no one else. They included wins over two teams -- St. Louis and Tampa Bay -- that are a combined 0-14, and those victories were by a combined five points.

They included the hiring of veteran assistant coach Sherman Lewis, first as an offensive consultant, then as the play-caller, a role in which he replaced Zorn Monday night. And they now include major injuries to two of the team's four offensive Pro Bowlers, Cooley and Samuels. The other two -- running back Clinton Portis and fullback Mike Sellers -- got in a locker room argument in the week leading up to a loss to Carolina over Portis's dissatisfaction with Sellers's blocking.

The offensive line is in disarray. Campbell has been sacked 20 times, third most in the league. Portis, who last year at this time was leading the league in rushing, has one 100-yard game.

"The only mainstay from our opening day roster that's on that line is [center] Casey Rabach and [left guard] Derrick Dockery," Portis said. "That's it. Everybody else has been shuffled, moved, changed, or injured. . . .

"That's just the position we [are] in. We got to address and get some depth. We went into the season, and we didn't address that issue, and it came back to haunt us."

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