Redskins Turn to a Familiar Face
With Sellers Doubtful, Kozlowski Is Brought Back for the Fourth Straight Year
Saturday, November 24, 2007; Page E09
Concerned that fullback Mike Sellers could miss tomorrow's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of a back injury, the Washington Redskins re-signed tight end Brian Kozlowski to the active roster before practice yesterday at Redskins Park.
Sellers sat out practice Thursday and yesterday after injuring his back Wednesday as the Redskins (5-5) prepared to face the NFC South-leading Buccaneers (6-4) at Raymond James Stadium. Washington has listed Sellers as doubtful, and Coach Joe Gibbs said Sellers might not travel to Tampa Bay.
"With backs, I guess you can just have 'em tie up on you," Gibbs said. "He plays a big role for us. It will be real important for us to get him back as quick as possible."
Washington had no reserve fullbacks or H-backs on the roster and wide receiver James Thrash, who serves as an emergency H-back, has not practiced the past two weeks after suffering a high ankle sprain in a 33-25 loss to Philadelphia on Nov. 11. Washington would rather not use tight ends Chris Cooley and Todd Yoder as H-backs because they already have significant roles.
So the Redskins brought back Kozlowski, 37, who worked out with other free agents before practice Thursday and has played for the Redskins the last three seasons. To make room for Kozlowski on the active roster, the Redskins waived wide receiver Jimmy Farris. Washington still has six wide receivers on the 53-man roster.
Primarily a blocker, Kozlowski will be relied upon to lead the way for running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts and provide help in pass protection. Sellers is an integral part of the offense, the Redskins said, and Kozlowski could be busy if he fills in for him tomorrow against Tampa Bay.
"We got Koz back. He won't die," Gibbs joked. "He came in here [Thursday] and he is so bright, and been around so long, he went right out there and jumped in and took plays and everything. Of course, without Mike, it becomes a big deal there for us at fullback. He's got great experience, so we have confidence in him."
Said quarterback Jason Campbell: "The good thing about it is that he's been here every year at this time of the year. There's really not a whole lot he has to adjust to. He can just come in and play."
In 2004, the current coaching staff brought in Kozlowski, who knows the system well and is one of Cooley's best friends. Kozlowski, listed at 6 feet 3 and 265 pounds, also was signed late in the 2006 season. He had six catches for 56 yards in his first three stints with Washington.
A 13-year veteran, Kozlowski has 84 career receptions for 973 yards (an 11.6-yard average) and eight touchdowns. In addition to playing tight end, Kozlowski has contributed on special teams with the Redskins, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons.
He caught three passes for 29 yards in 11 games with the Redskins in 2004. During the 2005 season, Kozlowski played in all 16 games for Washington and had two receptions for 26 yards. After being signed on Nov. 15 last season, Kozlowski played in three games and had one reception for one yard.
"Hopefully, I can help out," said Kozlowski, who has not played in a game this season. "This is old hat for me. I'll be a little bit more tired, but whatever. I'll just be there for a reserve role or whatever they need me to do. Just got to be smart and know what I'm doing, if I get the chance."
Sellers said he still hopes to play against the Buccaneers.
"I never like to miss a game. I'm not saying I'm out," he said. "I might be okay. I plan on playing."
Although the Redskins are comfortable with Kozlowski, losing Sellers for a long stretch would be a significant blow, players said.
"Mike is a big part of what we do as far as our run game," Campbell said. "He's also a guy we try to hit with some passes. And one thing a DB doesn't want to do is hit Mike Sellers, so missing Mike is a real big deal to us."
Redskins Notes: Right tackle Todd Wade (knee) sat out practice and is listed as questionable. "It's kind of nagging," Wade said. "I'm still optimistic about it but it's going to be a game-time decision." If Wade is unable to play, rookie Stephon Heyer would start at right tackle, Gibbs said. . . . Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (foot) practiced and is listed as probable. "I think he feels good," Gibbs said. "Hopefully, he'll be able to take a big load in the game."