The Redskins, who were hoping their injury problems had become a thing of the past, may have to play their next game with a considerably weakened offensive line because Terry Hermeling and Bob Kuziel have been hurt.
But Coach Jack Pardee said yesterday he thought his team finally was strong enough to "start playing the same kind of football we produced last season."
Buoyed by the 23-0 romp over St. Louis Sunday, Pardee declared the Redskins are "back to where we want them to be, where we hoped we'd be when the season began.
"This team is very much like last year's right now. It's all the way back from what was wrong earlier in the season. We can be respectable from now on, but first we have to put together two weeks in a row."
Pardee refused to let the latest injuries dampen his spirit, but that could change later in the week, once he has been able to judge the health of Hermeling and Kuziel.
Hermeling, a starting tackle, had outpatient surgery yesterday to repair ligament damage to his thumb, which was hurt in the first half Sunday. Pardee said the veteran tackle would not work out until at least Thursday, but he expects him to play against New Orleans her Sunday. Hermeling will be fitted with a soft cast at medweek, then his ability to play will depend on the pain he can tolerate.
Huziel, the starting center, badely sprained his right wrist and forearm. That is his snapping arm, and he may not be able to center the ball correctly. Kuziel broke his right hand playing against Dallas in last season's finale and "he couldn't have played the next week if we had had a game," Pardee said. "But I think Bob can play this week if a cast doesn't hinder the movement of his fingers."
The Redskins received good news about defensive end Coy Bacon, who has been hindered recently by a sore knee that was drained last week. Bacon underwent examination yesterday at Sibley Hospital that showed no debilitating damage. He is expected to play Sunday.
Pardee said the latest wave of injuries could not be compared with those of month ago, when two tackles and two tight ends were lost during a four-game losing streak.
"These aren't multiple injuries to one position, and that't the big difference," Pardee said. "We are equipped to handle injuries like these. If Terry can't play, Fred Dean can replace him, we have every confidence in him. Ivan Peiffer has played in this league before and he can do the job for Bob.
"Sure the offensive line has been improving, but these things won't stop that. We can keep getting better.We have to. We still aren't any great shakes right now. It's a lot like last year. We aren't that good to overwhelm anyone, but we can play with anyone right now."
Sunday's triumph ended a difficult period for Pardee, during which he took considerable heat for his decision to continue using running plays and retrain from gimmicks despite the club's offensive woes.
"I knew we were going about things right," Pardee said. "Yes maybe this reinforces my convictions, but I knew I was right anyway. There is only one way to do it, to keep trying to become tough and not give in to gimmicks, so when everyone gets healthy, you have the foundation of a good team ready.
"When St. Louis got in trouble Sunday, they went to four wide receivers and scattered people around and left (Jim) Hart with less protection. When we were in that situation ( a month ago), we drew the line tighter so Joe (Theismann, Washington's quarterback) wouldn't get killed. He already was taking too many shots.
"The hardest thing is to keep everyone enthusiastic and believing in what you are doing when you aren't winning. We got a little better starting with Philadelphia and then against Denver and we kept improving against St. Louis.
"You are fearful when you lose that they will give up and be demoralized. But that never happened."
Now Pardee says he thinks his players, especially those on offense, can benefit from the weeks of losing.
Because of inconsistent pass protection during the slump, Theismann began rolling out more. Pardee said that in the past Theismann has not thrown "all that well" while moving, "but now he is making good decisions and throwing much better."
The Redskins also have started relying more heavily on Art Monk after first deciding to bring the rookie receiver along slowly.
"Art's ability to go inside and catch the ball and not be afraid of getting killed has opened up a new set of patterns for us," Pardee said. "He caught three third-down passes Sunday that gave us first downs. We had a least three more plays each time. He's turned out to be a big play man like we had hoped."
Pardee said he really never was against "throwing on first down, as long as it made sense to do it.
"We may be gambling a little more, but now a lot of these things are less of a gamble because we have the right players doing them. We can do more on defense because the offense has improved and we have people like (linebackers) Monte Coleman and Rich Milot in their correct third-down roles. And we now know better what plays Wilbur Jackson runs the best."
With cornerback Ray Waddy out for the season with a broken leg, the Redskins have a spot open on the roster. Pardee said he probably would wait until Wednesday to fill it, but if the offensive line injuries prove minor he would like to bring back wide receiver Ken Harrison off the injured reserve list. . . "The problem is we'd have to put him through waivers and, if he is claimed, we'd lose him," Pardee said. "But we need some more special teams players with both Ray and Zion McKinney sidelined." Pardee said he also wanted to free cornerback Jeris White from special team work "because we want to use Jeris more and more on our regular defense." The Redskins could activate rookie tackle Jerry Scanlan, tight end Phil DuBois or bring in a player off the league's waiver list.