Redskins Make Flurry Of Moves
Punter Replaced, Ex-MVP Signed, Safety Shut Down
Wednesday, October 15, 2008; Page E01
In a flurry of roster adjustments, the Washington Redskins yesterday replaced their struggling rookie punter with veteran Ryan Plackemeier, ended the season of safety Reed Doughty by placing him on injured reserve and signed former league most valuable player Shaun Alexander to fill in for ailing running back Ladell Betts.
The moves came after a day in which coaches and team officials put free agents through workouts at Redskins Park before preparations begin today for Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns. The team also signed veteran safety Mike Green to take Doughty's place both on defense, where the Redskins were left with only rookies at strong safety, and special teams.
Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' executive vice president for football operations, declined to comment on the moves. They were made, though, to address three distinct situations.
Alexander, who led the league in rushing in 2005, received an opportunity because Betts went down with a sprained left knee in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 19-17 loss to St. Louis. Alexander, 31, took a red-eye flight from the West Coast and landed yesterday morning, Zorn said, working out early in Ashburn.
"He looks fit," Zorn said. "He's got a lot of want-to in his attitude."
After winning the MVP award in 2005, when he scored a then-record 27 rushing touchdowns, Alexander endured a precipitous fall, playing 23 games in 2006 and '07, when he averaged 3.5 yards per carry. The Seahawks cut him last spring, and he tried out with Detroit, New Orleans and Cincinnati but did not land a spot.
Zorn and running backs coach Stump Mitchell worked with Alexander in Seattle. Zorn said he talked to Alexander about his potential role, which would be to back up Clinton Portis, the NFL's leading rusher. Betts, the regular backup, is expected to be out as long as four weeks.
Alexander agreed to a one-year deal at the minimum salary for a veteran.
"I think he is the kind of guy that is smart enough to understand the situation," Zorn said. "We've talked to Clinton. Clinton understands the situation. This thing could be temporary, or it could run the entire season. We're not going to put some sort of limitation on where we're at in four weeks, two weeks, however long it takes Ladell to get back. But [Alexander] knows the situation he's coming into."
Portis, who leads the league with 22.7 carries per game, frequently gets a few series off, and Zorn has been pleasantly surprised by the development of the running game, which ranks third in the NFL at 152.3 yards per game. Betts is averaging 4.1 yards on 38 carries.
Zorn said Rock Cartwright, who has just one carry this year, will "immediately" become Portis's backup as Alexander gets into football shape. "You got to get hit," Zorn said of Alexander. "He hasn't been hit yet. So we'll just have to wait and see."
Yet even on a day on which a three-time Pro Bowl selection joined the team, the most significant development at Redskins Park might have come at punter.