The Washington Redskins will be in the market Saturday for a tight end and probably a center to snap on kicks after they ended their preseason tonight in a nightmare of bad snaps, safeties, penalties and injuries that overshadowed and 11-6 loss to Tampa Bay.
Tight end Don Warren fractured a bone in his lower leg and Ted Fritsch unleashed four awful snaps, two that set up safeties, to hand Coach Jack Pardee a grab bag of headaches as he begins preparation for the season opener against Dallas.
Fritsch, who had had a terrible preseason even before tonight, twice snapped the ball over the head of punter Mike Connell and once over the head of field goal holder Joe Theismann. The two that eluded the punter became safeties when Connell chose to run into the end zone with the ball instead of trying to get off a kick.
Add a bouncing snap back to Connell on another punt and Fritsch was shellshocked by the end of the game. He was charged with minus 90 yards in fumbles. And to complicate matters, the Redskins do not have an experienced backup snapper, a role now filled by reserve tight end Phil DuBois, who was injured tonight. They likely will have to trade for one or pick up a player off the waiver list.
But Washington's difficulties go beyond Fritsch. With Dallas 10 days away, the Redskins could have both of their tight ends and their No. 3 defensive end sidelined. And Buddy Hardeman, the starting halfback, has a bruised shoulder that kept him out of most of this contest.
"My biggest concern is the injury situation," Pardee said. "We lost two tight ends and you can't do that and play a quality football game.
"Ted (Fritsch) will just have to work his way out of it. We had a lot of scoring opportunities, but our kicking game didn't help. We'll get it together. When the season gets going, we'll have one of the best special teams n the league."
Warren, the starting tight end since midway through last season, fractured the fibula in his left leg while trying to catch a pass. He will be sidelined an indefinite period, possibly 4-6 weeks, and will definitely miss the Dallas game. DuBois already had a bruised kidney when Warren went down, so John McDaniel, normally a wide receiver played tight end the rest of the night.
DuBois was kept here overnight for tests and observation.
Joe Jones, the veteran defensive end and pass rushing specialist, twisted and ankle in the final minutes of the game. With rookie Mat Mendenhall still struggling to adapt to the REDSKINS, From C1> NFL, Jones was being counted on as the top end reserve. If he can't go full speed, the Redskins become very vulnerable to injury at that position.
Hardeman was hurt while running up the middle late in the first period. He didn't play again, but his injury is not considered serious.
The Redskins, despite seven penalties and the special team troubles, led until the final 3 1/2 minutes, when Tampa Bay got its only touchdown -- a four-yard run by quarterback Chuck Fusina -- and its second safety to hand Washington its first loss of the pre-season.
The only scoring the Redskins could muster were Mark Moseley field goals of 32 and 42 yards. Moseley missed two kicks, one of which hit the right upright of the goal post.
But the lack of scoring, after a fine offensive showing last week in a victory over Oakland, still wasn't as devastating to the team as Fritsch's wild snaps.
He began by centering high to Connell, in his first game since taking over for Mike Bragg. Connell handled that one, but the punt was nullified by penalties. The next snap bounced, but again Connell got off his kick.
Later n the first period, Moseley set up for a 44-yard field goal. He never swung his leg. Fritsch's hike sailed over Theismann's head, Moseley picked up the ball and lateraled to the quarterback, who was dumped by a horde of Bucs.
On Washington's opening possession of the third period, Fritsch snapped the ball over Connell's head. Connell caught up with it at the Redskin 18 and chose to run into the end zone for a safety rather than risk having his kick blocked by the fast-closing Bucs.
Fritsch then seemed to steady himself.He didn't have any more trouble on punts or field goals until Connell dropped back to punt from his 27.
This time, the hike cleared Connell's head by at least six feet. Connell turned and raced toward the end zone. He corralled the ball at the three and again took it into the end zone for the safety. That gave the Bucs their 11-6 lead.
The Redskins' stunned punting team stood in the field for perhaps half a minute staring toward the end zone. (one of the players moved as they contemplated the embarrassing moment. Finally, they turned and slowly lined up for the next play.
Pardee might have thought things would go well tonight when cornerback Joe Lavender, who had been missing from camp since Tuesday, showed up in time to play. Lavender's presence allowed the Redskinss to drop former Colt Doug Nettles, who was to be activated for this contest.
But even a decent showing by Theismann couldn't diminish the night's calamities. He was 10 of 15 for 93 yards in the first two quarters before leaving for Kim McQuilken.
Every time Theismann or McQuilken got the club near the goal line, the Redskins bogged down. Most of the time they were hindered by a sticky Tampa Bay defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the league last year. But occasionally, holding penalties, illegal motion and dropped passes did the damage.
McQuiklen had a subpar game. He completed just three of 10 passes for 28 yards. He even caught one of his own throws, which was batted into his hands by a Tampa Bay lineman. Earlier in the day, McQuilken learned that his Washington apartment had been burglarized.
Rookie Rickey Claitt povided some pizzazz for Washington by gaining 54 yards on 10 second half carries. And Ike Forte turned in a dazzling 16-yard run that almost went for a touchdown. Otherwise, the Redskins struggled.
But Tampa Bay, playing its second- and third-team backfields, struggled even more. Only when the Bucs went for a first down on fourth and three at their 48 with four minutes left did the offense show life.
Fusina's pass to Jim Obradovich got that first down and a 31-yarder to former Redskin Danny Buggs put Tampa Bay at the 11. On second down, Fusina folled left, saw no opponent in sight and scampered in for the score.
Moments later, the Bucs got their second safety and the Redskins could start dressing for a long flight home. And Pardee could begin reaching for the aspirin tablets.