Washington Redskins wide receiver Art Monk, who has been unable to play since the second game of the exhibition season because of a sprained knee, could be activated as early as next week.
Monk missed last year's playoffs and Super Bowl because of a broken foot and so far this season has been on the injured list with the knee injury.
Monk's knee finally has responded to treatments and, if all goes well, he will begin practicing Monday and could be activated for next week's game against the Los Angeles Raiders at RFK Stadium.
By being placed on the injured list before the start of the regular season, Monk had to miss a minimum of four games. The Redskins will play their fourth game Sunday against the Seahawks in Seattle's Kingdome.
The Redskins made one roster move yesterday, activating linebacker Quentin Lowry to fill the vacancy left when linebacker Monte Coleman was placed on the injured list last week with a thigh bruise.
Lowry played in all nine games last season, primarily on special teams, but was released this preseason.
"As soon as Art is ready, we'll activate him," Coach Joe Gibbs said after conducting most of a two-hour practice in a driving rain.
"Art is progressing fantastically," said trainer Bubba Tyer. "He's coming along great. His legs are just about equal in strength now and he is working extremely hard. He should be ready to practice next week."
Monk partially tore the medial collateral ligament of his knee in the second preseason game. The first diagnosis was that he would be sidelined 10 days to two weeks. But when the ligament was slow responding to treatment, he was placed on the injured list.
There was considerable concern then as to when Monk would be able to play again.
"You have to be very conservative with an injury like that," said Tyer. "He will still have to wear a brace for a while, but he should be close to full strength when he goes back out."
Monk, at 6 feet 3, 209 pounds, is the Redskins' biggest and fastest receiver. He is also an outstanding blocker and a gifted runner once he catches the ball. The Redskins may have been able to win without him, but with him they take on another dimension.
"Our other guys have responded well in Art's absence," Gibbs said, referring to Alvin Garrett, Virgil Seay and Nick Giaquinto, the three players it has taken to replace Monk. "But they aren't Art Monk. We're taking about a rare and gifted athlete who gives us a different offensive look when he's playing."
It has been a trying time for Monk, both dealing with the injuries and dealing with not playing.
He has declined virtually all interviews since the preseason injury, seeming somewhat embarrassed that he is hurt. Nevertheless, Monk is gracious, even when shying from questions.
"After I got this thing," he said, pointing to his knee, "I just decided not to give any interviews until I'm back playing again. I'm not trying to be difficult or anything. I'd just rather not say much until I can play."
Charley Taylor, coach of the wide receivers and holder of most of the Redskins' receiving records that Monk is predicted to break, said he sympathizes with Monk. "To get hurt twice like he has and miss the Super Bowl is tough," said Taylor. "You get a feeling of not belonging, even though deep inside you really know that you do. It can play on your mind, especially if you're a young guy like Art. It's almost like the 'what have you done for me lately' thing.
"I've just got my fingers crossed that he will be able to come back next week. We've done a lot without him, but we can do a lot more with him."
"One of the best indicators of how good we are is that we don't have to rely on any one person," said quarterback Joe Theismann. "As great as Art Monk is, we won without him. But, he's still very important to this team. He gives us so much. He's one of the best receivers and best athletes in football.
"The things he has over our other receivers is his ability to run with the football and his size. He will go up and get the football. Alvin and Virgil will go up and get it, too, but how high can you go if you're 5-7? Calvin Murphy can dunk the basketball, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can touch the top of the backboard. Do you see what I mean? I wouldn't take anything away from the little guys, but Art is 6-3.
"It's going to be great to have him back and I'm sure we'll take advantage of his skills right away."