San Diego quarterback Dan Fouts is "99 percent certain" to miss Monday night's game with the Redskins, a Chargers spokesman said yesterday.
Fouts sprained his right shoulder Oct. 16 in a game against the New England Patriots and did not play last week against the Denver Broncos. The Chargers were reported to feel that playing him before the sprain was completely healed would create substantial risk of a more serious injury.
"We're not even counting on Dan. We're counting on going with Ed (Luther)," said San Diego Coach Don Coryell. Chargers spokesman Rick Smith said Fouts may also miss the following week's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Still, Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs says that won't affect his preparations for the game, and the assistant coach in charge of the defense, Richie Petitbon, says he'll believe Fouts will sit out the Redskins game when he sees it. "We've been getting ready for Dan Fouts, and that's what we'll continue to do," said Gibbs. "We'll make adjustments for Luther during the game if he is the quarterback."
Monday night's game in San Diego will be the first meeting between the Redskins and the Chargers since Gibbs left the San Diego organization three years ago to become the Redskins' head coach. Gibbs says he has mixed feelings about his return.
"The last thing I want to do is play them on Monday night because I know what kind of an organization they have, their coaches and their players," Gibbs said. "I have a lot of respect for them. Naturally, I have some special feelings about going back. It used to be home. You want to do well."
Redskins running back John Riggins, who sat out last week's game against Detroit with a pinched sciatic nerve, is healthy once again and Gibbs said he will revert to the offensive strategy used before Riggins was injured. That will mean less playing time for Joe Washington, who gained a career-high 147 yards in the Redskins' 38-17 victory over the Lions. "We will play John on the running plays. We will get Joe in the game on long-yardage situations. They will both get plenty of playing time," said Gibbs.
Gibbs said kick returner Mike Nelms has a sore ankle and may not play. Nelms missed Sunday's game with a bruised forearm. Whether he will see action Monday is "a day-to-day thing," Gibbs said.
For the Chargers, three other key players besides Fouts were reported ailing, but all are expected to play. They are running back Chuck Muncie, suffering from a groin strain; running back James Brooks, with a sprained ankle, and receiver Wes Chandler, with a bruised kidney.
The Chargers said veteran Sherman Smith will replace Brooks should that become necessary and rookie Earnest Jackson will back up Muncie.
Although he remained skeptical over the reports that Fouts probably will not play on Monday, Petitbon downplayed the significance of Fouts' absence for the Redskins' defense. "Whether he plays or not they're basically going to do the same thing," said Petitbon. "They're not going to change anything because the quarterback is out."
Monday's game, said Petitbon, "will be a good test for us. We certainly don't anticipate another Green Bay game," referring to the Packers game Oct. 17 in which the Redskins' defense all but collapsed in Green Bay's 48-47 victory.
Similarly, safety Mark Murphy said he doubts that Fouts will sit out Monday's game. "I think he'll play," said Murphy. "Maybe I'm a pessimist, but I think it will be that 1 percent, not the 99."
Murphy also discounted the significance if Fouts is absent. "We still have to play the San Diego offense," he said.
The Redskins are scheduled to leave for San Diego Sunday afternoon after a light workout at Redskin Park.