Just when Coach Jack Pardee thought his offense was beginning to come together, he got some more bad news yesterday.The Redskins may have to face Oakland Sunday without both starting offensive tackles and, possibly, first-string tight end Don Warren.
Pardee said tackle George Starke could miss three to four weeks with a strained knee and may be placed on injured reserve within the next two days. Tackle Terry Hermeling has a sprained knee and has not been ruled out for Sunday. Pardee said, "With our need and knowing Terry, I think he will be back. But it doesn't look that good right now."
Warren, who played Sunday against the Giants on a fractured leg, remains in that injury gray area. If his leg comes around as it did last week, he probably will suit up for the Raiders. But if it does not respond, then the Redskins will be reduced to one tight end, newcomer Rick Walker, since reserve tight end Phil DuBois fractured two ribs against the Giants and is out for a month.
Washington will add at least one new player, an offensive tackle, probably today. He will take DuBois' spot on the roster when DuBois goes onto the injured reserve list. If the club decides later in the week also to put Starke in that category, Pardee said, "We'll probably look for someone who can help us the most on our special teams. I'm worried about our coverage. With all the injuries we've had, they've suffered."
Of course, if Warren is sidelined, then that final roster position will have to be occupied by a tight end. Pardee said he will hold off making a decision until he sees how Warren reacts at practice today.
After the Giant game, the Redskins thought Hermeling, not Starke, had the most severe knee injury. But yesterday, Pardee said closer examination of both ailments revealed just the opposite.
The injuries come at a time when Pardee thought the Redskins had straightened out their rushing game problems, thanks to the running of Rickey Claitt and Wilbur Jackson and the blocking of the line against New York.
But now his outside running attack and a major part of his pass protection could be decimated by the loss of his tackles and Warren. The Redskins still have not forgotten what happened in 1978, Pardee's first year here, when Starke was hurt and the offensive line fell apart the last half of the season. s
Fred Dean, a converted guard who Pardee said "is just as good as any starter," will replace Starke. If Hermeling is out, then Pardee said the Redskins will go with Gary Anderson, the No. 1 backup guard, at his position. He also will give center Bob Kuziel work at tackle during the week.
"You prepare yourself, depthwise, for one injury at a position, but you never can expect to lose both tackles, for example, at the same time," Pardee said. "We just can't shake these injuries. Every time I think we are ready to get ahead, something else pops up."
Hermeling, who has his leg in a splint yesterday, said he thought he could play against Oakland. "There is some looseness in my knee," he said, "but I think I can go." Pardee hopes Hermeling is right, although he said yesterday the doctors haven't given him clearance at this point to be able to play.
"Herm is a tough person and if anyone can play, he's the one. I hate to use anyone when they are less than 100 percent, but in this case, we may have to. We'll just have to see how Terry responds through the week to treatments."
Pardee said the injuries to the line "makes it very important that we keep running like we did against New York. We don't want to get into a situation where we must pass. That's what happened two years ago and everything broke down. If we can move the ball forward on the ground, it will relieve some of the protection pressure."
Pass protection by tackles is considered one of the hardest jobs in pro football and Hermeling and Starke both are proficient at the task. Dean filled in well Sunday and is coming off a fine showing in preseason, although he didn't switch to backup tackle until late in camp. Anderson has worked almost exclusively at guard and center this year after spending last season on injured reserve.
Oakland is a particularly physical team, especially on defense. The new tackles will be required to block ex-Redskin John Matuszak (6-foot-8, 280 pounds) and Willie Jones (6-4, 245). Veteran Cedrick Hardman (6-4, 245) plays extensively when the Raiders use a 3-4 alignment.
"If we can get someone like Gary Anderson to come off the ball hard and be tough, then we don't have to press any new player into action right away," Pardee said. "We had everyone firing off Sunday. That's why we had the best first-down rushing production we've had in a couple of years.
"We're looking for a veteran player to bring in. We need someone who knows how to play, and not a young guy who needs work. We can't afford the time to bring someone along."
There also might be some good news on the injury front. Linebacker Brad Dusek is ready to start taking his full turn after a long struggle with a leg pull suffered early in camp, Pardee said. Dusek and Monte Coleman will be the outside linebackers with Pete Wysocki in reserve, Pardee said, "although Monte might have to put in more special teams work than we had planned. If it means he has to sit out a defensive play, then he will have to. We can't leave our special teams without some help."
Halfback Buddy Hardeman, who has been hampered by a sprained ankle and did not play against New York, is expected back this week. But Pardee said he wasn't counting on middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz, who is recovering from a sprained knee.
Pardee would like to ease off in practice this week to let his wounded heal, but he says "we can't afford to do that. We have to practice hard to accomplish what we need work on. If we shadow block in practice, we'll get killed. But for now, we have to do a lot of things I'd prefer not to do. That's what injuries can do to you."
Pardee praised his defense, which he said "did everything just about on the button. We gave up three long passes, but other than that we played very, very well. We have to keep it up until our offense heals" . . . Pardee said other injuries from the Giant game include Lemar Parrish (sore foot), Coy Bacon (sprained back) and Karl Lorch (stiff neck). All are expected to play this week . . . Oakland quarterback Dan Pastorini hurt his knee slightly Sunday against San Diego but finished the game and will play against Washington.