PHILADELPHIA, NOV. 12 -- Washington Redskins defensive tackle Eric Williams slumped on a stool in front of his locker with a bag of ice on his right thigh. In the Redskins' 28-14 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles tonight at Veterans Stadium, he had been one of the lucky ones.
Six Redskins were taken off the field, including both the quarterbacks who were in uniform, two kick returners, the starting middle linebacker and one running back.
Williams looked around a room brimming with limping teammates, and tried to verbalize his feelings.
"It's hard to put into words," he said haltingly. "I've never seen a game like this. This league is so tough. But no matter how cold this league is, we have to close ranks and keep on marching. That's just the way it is. It's like a war. You take your wounded to the hospital and keep fighting."
Tonight the Redskins took a lot of wounded off the field, although only one -- punt returner Joe Howard -- needed to be hospitalized. He was sent to Graduate Hospital, and was kept overnight for observation of a concussion sustained in the fourth quarter when he and 6-foot-1, 222-pound linebacker Britt Hager collided full-speed, helmet to helmet. The 5-8, 170-pound Howard remained motionless for several minutes before being removed on a stretcher.
Quarterback Stan Humphries and kick returner Walter Stanley are suspected of having ligament damage to their right knees. Running back Gerald Riggs sprained the arch of his left foot -- the same injury that forced him to miss most of seven games last season. Linebacker Greg Manusky sprained his left knee, an injury that apparently was less serious than feared when the team's medical staff treated him on the field.
And there were others. Starting quarterback Jeff Rutledge sprained his right thumb. Punter Ralf Mojsiejenko sprained his right ankle. Offensive tackle Ed Simmons aggravated a knee injury. Cornerback Darrell Green strained a calf.
"How often do you see a game where the team doctor is the featured interview afterward?" defensive coordinator Larry Peccatiello wondered as Charles Jackson faced a thicket of reporters.
It is unlikely the injuries could come at a worse time for the Redskins, whose record fell to 5-4 with tonight's loss, leaving them tied with the Eagles for second in the NFC East. They play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday at RFK Stadium, then the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium a week from Thursday -- ironically, Thanksgiving Day.
"The number of injuries is going to hurt us," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "It's going to be tough for us. It's a big setback. We lost a game and got a lot of guys hurt."
Injuries, the Redskins said, are part of the game. "It's a game we all love," Stanley said. "It's a game we've all been playing since we were kids. You don't want to get injured, but we know the risks involved and we take them."
Jackson, who called this the most physical game he had seen in his six seasons with the club, put it plainly: "It's a violent, contact sport. You have 250-pound neuro-muscular geniuses who are able to grab and twist you down."
Through the first eight weeks of the season, the Redskins had been relatively fortunate with injuries. Quarterback Mark Rypien tore a knee ligament that required arthroscopic surgery, but that was about the only significant injury.
"It's a thing with the law of averages," Peccatiello said.
"Guys were in a daze," defensive tackle Darryl Grant said of the atmosphere along the Redskins' sideline as the game wore on. It wasn't just that so many of them were being hurt so seriously; they also were getting battered on the scoreboard.
"There's a little saying in the league about the initials NFL," Williams said. "It means Not For Long."