Redskins look past injuries and expect reserves to play well
Tuesday, November 23, 2010; 1:02 AM
On the first day that Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan gathers his players together before each season, he talks about the fundamentals of how he wants his team to play and, just as important, how he wants it to practice. When the final roster is chosen, Shanahan tells him, every member - from star to also-ran - must be ready to play at any moment, because there will be days like Sunday, when the Redskins somehow beat Tennessee, 19-16, despite the fact that nearly a dozen players were out with injuries.
"We talk to them about losing people during the season," Shanahan said Monday, shortly after he went through the list of 10 players whose status isn't known for this week's game against Minnesota. "It's going to happen. Sometimes it happens in bunches, other times one a game, two a game. You've got to be ready.
"So these guys that are preparing themselves during the week. They're one play away from being the starter, but you've got to prepare yourself as if you're a starter each and every week. It's tough. It's a lot of grind, especially when you're playing special teams. That's why you're proud of a team when they play well."
The headline injury updates from Monday: strong safety LaRon Landry, who didn't even make the trip to Tennessee because of a lingering Achilles' tendon injury, is "98 percent" certain to be out against the Vikings, Shanahan said. Center Casey Rabach, who went out in the first quarter, has a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee, and probably will miss the game as well, according to the team.
Shanahan said running back Clinton Portis will have further meetings with doctors regarding his torn groin muscle, which kept him out for five games, then sent him back to the bench after he made a brief return against the Titans. Ryan Torain, the primary fill-in when Portis was hurt, has missed the past two games with a hamstring injury, and Shanahan said, is a "long shot" to play against Minnesota.
That likely leaves the Redskins with Keiland Williams, an undrafted rookie free agent who has 49 carries for 195 yards (a 4.0 average) and three touchdowns, as the starter. The backups, though, are shifting too. Chad Simpson, who broke a bone in his foot during pregame warmups Sunday, was placed on season-ending injured reserve Monday. He was replaced on the roster by James Davis, a second-year back out of Clemson who was cut by Cleveland earlier this season and signed to the Redskins' practice squad in October. Davis has 13 carries for 24 yards in his NFL career.
The situation along the offensive line is at least as fluid. Rabach's injury meant Will Montgomery, who was already starting in place of Artis Hicks at right guard, moved to center, veteran Derrick Dockery went in at left guard and Kory Lichtensteiger moved from left to right guard. But when Dockery went down with a knee injury - Shanahan said Dockery was "optimistic" about his prospects, but would likely miss a couple of days of practice - tackle Stephon Heyer, who had never taken as much as a practice snap at guard, played right guard.
That, Shanahan said, is unlikely to happen this week. The players are off Tuesday, and before practice begins Wednesday, the Redskins must further evaluate the health of Hicks (thigh and groin), Dockery and Rabach and then determine whether they'll make a roster move. The Redskins have two linemen - Eric Cook and Selvish Capers, both seventh-round picks in the 2010 draft - on the practice squad, and Shanahan said they would be strongly considered if the team needs a lineman against the Vikings.
That might stabilize a situation that, in the estimation of safety Reed Doughty, was "crazy" against Tennessee.
"I think as a group, we felt like we came on strong when we needed to, especially in the situation that we had," Heyer said Monday. "I think it was all about necessity, that we were the last group, the only group left to get the 'W' that we needed. I think we all were on the same page and I think we all just raised our game more so knowing that we had such a weird situation."
The Redskins face a similar situation in the defensive backfield. Doughty played every snap on both defense and special teams Sunday because Anderson Russell, a rookie who was active for just the second time Sunday, tore the ACL in his right knee in the first quarter and is out for the year. The Redskins are looking for a safety to take Russell's spot on the roster, Shanahan said.
"There's a big adjustment any time people start getting hurt," Doughty said. "You never know when that's going to happen."
Starting cornerback Carlos Rogers, who missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury, will be evaluated during the week, so it's possible the Redskins could face Brett Favre and the struggling Vikings with the same patched-together secondary they used to beat the Titans. And as far as Shanahan is concerned, that is part of life in the NFL.
"These guys that are on our team are pro football players," Shanahan said. "Not everybody's had an opportunity to prove what they can do. I think you saw [Sunday] a bunch of players step up and they proved they could play, and that's what we expect our guys to do. Even though we've got injuries, that doesn't mean that these guys behind them can't play at a very high level, and we expect them to play at that level."