The Washington Redskins placed wide receiver Art Monk on the injured reserve list yesterday for a minimum of four weeks. In doing so, they resigned themselves to the grim fact that the sprained ligament in Monk's left knee has not healed enough to justify keeping him on the roster.
Monk will not be eligible to play again until the fifth game of the season, Oct. 2 against the Los Angeles Raiders. To take his place, the Redskins claimed by procedural recall first-year running back Reggie Evans, who was not picked up by another team after the Redskins released him in the final roster cut Monday.
So, for a day, anyway, all those words of bravado about Monday night's season-opener against the Dallas Cowboys at RFK Stadium were replaced by quiet, realistic words of resignation about Monk. Coach Joe Gibbs' roster strategy of "48 and wait" is over. The waiting, of course, was for Monk, the graceful fourth-year receiver from Syracuse.
"We waited and waited and waited," Gibbs said. "Obviously, Art is very important to us, so we were willing to wait to see how the knee progressed. I had a long talk with Art yesterday. After talking to Art and talking to the trainers, we decided (injured reserve) would be the best thing to do."
Monk, 25, sprained his left knee while making a 19-yard pass reception in the first quarter of the 27-23 preseason victory over Cincinnati. He had broken a bone in his right foot in the final regular-season game last year, thereby missing all the glory of the playoffs and the Super Bowl after averaging nearly 50 pass catches per season his first three years with the Redskins. He has become silent since his latest injury. Yesterday, he declined comment.
"I think Art gets emotionally down," Gibbs said. "He's such a physically strong guy (6 feet 3, 209 pounds). For a guy who never got hurt before, this is hard. (Wide receiver) Charlie Brown was the same way when he got hurt two years ago. I told Art that we're lucky. It could have been worse."
"The knee just has not progressed as far as we hoped," said trainer Bubba Tyer. Initially, Monk was expected back in 10 days to three weeks. It now has been 22 days since the medial collateral ligament was strained and Monk still walks with a noticeable limp and has yet to begin running again. Not even slowly.
"This is good for Art, I think," Tyer said. "He'll get well and he won't play until he's completely well. We tried to judge when he would be able to come back. We knew he couldn't play this week. We didn't think he'd be able to play next week (at Philadelphia) and we weren't sure about the week after that (against Kansas City on Sept. 18)."
"The only 'if'," Gibbs said, "was the fourth game."
"Whenever you lose a guy like Art Monk," said Charley Taylor, the receivers coach, "you suffer. But we'll pull together. It will be like last year."
Virgil Seay and Alvin Garrett, the two "Smurfs" who keep promising new shenanigans this year ("We're not telling what's up," Garrett said, laughing), will fill in for Monk, just as they did in the postseason last year. So will Mark McGrath, the third-year receiver picked up from Seattle in the offseason.
Back in his jersey, No. 26, Evans was a 5-foot-11, 201-pound bundle of rejuvenation yesterday. The Redskins had hoped to keep five backs this season, but because of other needs had been able to keep only four on the roster. Evans, who Gibbs said had won the fifth spot, was released Monday when league rosters had to be cut to 49 players.
"They said that there was a possibility that they would try to get me back. I trusted them pretty much," said Evans, 24, who spent last year on injured reserve (knee injury) and his last two years at the University of Richmond as the blocking back for Barry Redden, now with the Los Angeles Rams.
"Last night Coach (Don) Breaux called me and said to come in this morning. I was watching the news when he called, watching all that hype about the Dallas-Washington game Monday night. I kept thinking, 'Boy, I sure would like to play in that game.' "
Evans gained 94 yards in 32 carries during the four-game preseason, second on the team to John Riggins' 120 yards in 29 carries. The coaches had liked his special teams play, too.
"I felt like Reggie was one guy who we agonized most over when we made the cut," Gibbs said.
When Evans dropped rookie cornerback Darrell Green with a brusing block during practice yesterday, veterans like Tony McGee and Dave Butz began a playful sideline rendition of "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!"
Smiling impishly later, Evans wiped sweat off his brow and said, "It really is good to be back."