Coach Joe Gibbs had expected that the Redskin injury situation would improve dramatically this week. Instead, it has gotten worse, with fullback Wilbur Jackson out for Sunday's game against San Francisco, Mark Moseley probably unable to kick off and two starting defensive linemen hobbled.
The only good news Gibbs heard yesterday was from tackle George Starke, who said he could play against the 49ers despite a broken right hand.
Even the likely return of linebacker Brad Dusek and defensive tackle Wilbur Young from the in-season injured reserve list won't give the struggling Redskins the kind of personnel boost Gibbs hoped to receive before Sunday.
He had thought running back Joe Washington (ankle sprain) and guard Russ Grimm (knee) might be ready for full-time duty. But if either suits up, it apparently would be only for emergency use.
Two major injuries along the defensive line also were causing concern: tackle Perry Brooks, who had one of his best games as a Redskin, broke a thumb in that Eagle contest, although Gibbs felt he might be able to play Sunday, and defensive end Mat Mendenhall reinjured his knee in the same game. His status for the 49ers will be determined after a doctor's examination today. Defensive tackle Dave Butz has a sore ankle and cornerback Lemar Parrish still is bothered by a sore knee.
Jackson, who has a strain on the back part of his right knee, developed swelling overnight. Gibbs said he had hoped Jackson would be healthier yesterday, but "his knee just didn't come around. I don't see how he can play. It's a shame, he's been our most productive runner."
Gibbs said the Redskins would be monitoring closely Moseley's progress from a right thigh strain. It seems likely that Moseley will be able to kick field goals, but Gibbs said he wasn't sure who would handle kickoffs.
"Maybe we'll have to conduct a team tryout on Wednesday to see who can kick off," Gibbs said. "We have to cover ourselves there. Mark being able to do it is really questionable right now." The first probable kickoff candidate would be punter Mike Connell. Last season, defensive tackle Paul Smith, who has since retired, was Moseley's backup.
"In 15 years, I've never seen anything like this injury problem," Gibbs said. "It's really hurt us, the way we are shoveling people around. We've got to get over this hump, get everyone back and point everyone in the same direction.
"I know it sounds like an excuse. But it seems every time we have a player going well, he gets hurt. Joe Washington has a great first game and then he gets hurt. Wilbur Jackson is heading for more than 100 yards against a really tough defensive team (Eagles) and he goes down. We lose a valuable guy like George Starke on the first play. When a guy like Starke goes down, the players all know what it means. They aren't dumb.
"We just have to learn to persevere. We seem to overcome our problems for a while in a game and then we let it get away from us. We get to a point when we say, we can't overcome this any more. I told the players today, we have to get into a frame of mind that no matter what happens, we can overcome it."
Gibbs also said he wasn't being critical of his players after Sunday's game, even if his remarks about the team's play in the fourth period had been interpreted that way.
"The players played hard, we just made some critical mistakes at the wrong time," he said. "I didn't feel I was being critical of them afterwards. We are all in this together. I didn't pick out any individual players, and I didn't mean for what I said to sound critical. That's not the kind of relationship I have with my players."
Gibbs said a decision on whether to activate Dusek and Young would be made today. Even after four weeks on the injury list, neither player is completely healthy, but they are needed desperately. If both are added, two other players would have to go.
Dusek said his dislocated shoulder was "feeling pretty good, but it's not all the way there yet. I feel I can play, but it's up to the coaches. They will have to see how I move this week and if I'm favoring it." Dusek has not had any contact since hurting the shoulder in the final preseason game.
The Redskins already are without Monte Coleman, who has a fractured shoulder. And Rich Milot remains hindered by a sore shoulder. Dusek's return would ease the problem at linebacker until Coleman's anticipated return in two weeks.
With both Brooks and Mendenhall hurting, Young could be forced into a starting role this week.
"Wilbur still had a slight twinge in his shoulder last week," Gibbs said. "We want him back, but I don't want to rush him if he isn't ready. But certainly both he and Brad would be welcomed additions right now."
Gibbs admitted the losing streak was becoming increasingly frustrating to him and his players, especailly because "we really aren't playing like an 0-4 team in many ways. We're getting better every week, but two things are killing us: our turnovers and our inability to cause any opponent turnovers."
Certainly, the Redskins have some of the most misleading statistics ever possessed by a 0-4 team. This week, they are leading the NFC in offense, and will be either first or second in defense, depending on how the Rams fared defensively against Chicago last night.
But those rankings have been neutralized by their inability to score from inside the 30 and by opponents' big plays. Washington has been inside the 30 18 times this season, but has come away with points only nine times, including only five touchdowns.