Owens Likely Out For the Season
By Mark Maske
NASHVILLE, Aug. 15 The Washington Redskins got into the win column today, but their 27-24 preseason victory over the Tennessee Oilers was costly. One of the team's thinnest positions became even thinner when starting defensive end Rich Owens suffered a knee injury that Redskins officials said almost certainly will end his season.
Owens hurt his left knee on the Redskins' second-to-last defensive play of the first half and was on crutches following the game. He's scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on Monday. But trainer Bubba Tyer said he's "98 percent sure" that Owens suffered a tear of his anterior cruciate ligament, which will require surgery and end Owens's season.
The Redskins already had problems at defensive end. Starter Kenard Lang missed today's game because of patella tendinitis in his knee and was replaced by Kelvin Kinney. Opponents are likely to attack the Redskins' defense on the perimeter with newly acquired tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan Wilkinson clogging the middle, and the team was in the running to sign Fernando Smith this week before the free agent defensive end agreed to a one-year, $1.7 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars Wednesday evening.
Team officials plan to have Lang back on the practice field on Monday and will pencil in him and Kinney as the starters. But Coach Norv Turner said that the Redskins could seek help from outside the organization.
"We were short at end before Rich got hurt," Turner said. "We're real short now. The guys we have here, we have to get them going. And we're going to have to be on the lookout for any end who's available."
Linebacker Ken Harvey said: "It's going to hurt. We've just got to keep going and other guys have to do the job."
Redskins starters only played a half, and Owens's injury came 32 seconds before the intermission. He said that he jumped over an Oilers blocker, but got his leg caught under a Tennessee lineman when he landed.
"I feel fine now, actually," said Owens, who led the Redskins with 11 sacks in 1996 but managed only 3o sacks last season. "Getting hurt is something I never really thought about. This would be my first real injury. We'll see. I'll be back. I've got to stay upbeat."
It was a mixed-bag day for a starting defense that probably will have to carry the load if the Redskins are to make the playoffs. The Redskins got Harvey back into the lineup today but remained without cornerback Darrell Green. The Oilers averaged 6.1 yards per rushing attempt and managed 17 points in the first half.
Cornerback Cris Dishman committed a pass-interference penalty to set up the Oilers' first touchdown, and the Redskins permitted Tennessee to drive 64 yards for a touchdown just before halftime. Quarterback Steve McNair hurt the Redskins with his scrambling, and there were some penalties and other breakdowns that irked defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
"I thought we made errors that were not indicative of an experienced group," Nolan said. "That's the thing that's upsetting. . . . [But] this is the time of the year those things are going to happen."
No one in the Redskins' locker room seems all that concerned about the chances that the defense will fail to do its job this year.
"We made some improvement from last week," Stubblefield said. "There were some mental mistakes. But we'll get there. We're at the point where we're learning each other and learning how to play together."
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