All-pro wide receiver Charlie Brown, who has missed the Washington Redskins' last two games with what was thought to be a badly sprained ankle, found out yesterday he has a small hairline fracture in his upper ankle and may be out "another one to three weeks," Coach Joe Gibbs said after practice.
Before the new diagnosis, there had been some hope Brown could play this week or next.
Gibbs said a bone scan, not the usual X-ray, picked up Brown's fracture. Brown was given the bone scan because his injury was taking a long time to heal.
"Definitely, it makes a big, big difference," Gibbs said. "We've been going short, waiting for Charlie (to return)."
For now, he remains on the Redskins' seemingly endless list of injuries. In the season's seven weeks, there have been 15 changes on the 49-man roster. It has been a constant give-and-take, an injured player here, a new free agent there. In fact, even before the news of Brown's injury, the Redskins announced they had signed running back Jeff Moore, a five-year veteran who last played for San Francisco. But, fittingly, he was brought in not to replace Brown but Joe Washington, who has a knee injury.
Replacements are everywhere at Redskin Park. Several came from free agency, the unemployment line of pro football. Defensive end Tom Beasley had been injured and waived by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Wide receiver and special teams man Rich Mauti was released by New Orleans. Moore, the newest of the new Redskins, spent the last two months working out and hoping for a call after the 49ers let him go.
Others were the products of trades, like wide receiver Calvin Muhammad from the Los Angeles Raiders, now the most spectacular of the Redskins' finds.
They aren't wearing name tags at Redskin Park, but maybe they should.
"Is that him out there?" asked Ricky Smith, who came in a trade from New England last month, as Moore went through a workout after practice with reserve quarterback Babe Laufenberg. "I played against him in college."
Smith, who has recovered from the concussion he suffered in the Redskins' 34-14 victory over Dallas and was back at practice, went to Alabama State. Moore went to Jackson State.
"Smith? The cornerback?" Moore said. "Oh yeah. But I don't remember the game."
Smith has been playing nickel back for the Redskins' defense. Beasley started against Dallas in place of the injured Dexter Manley. Mauti is working more at wide receiver because of injuries. Moore is expected to fill Washington's role as the pass-catching back.
No one knows how Moore will work out, but it's pretty easy to see how the others are doing. The Redskins, 5-2, have won five in a row even as the injuries have mounted. The replacements, it seems, haven't missed a beat.
Gibbs and General Manager Bobby Beathard have made a science out of finding fresh troops. Their search rivals that of corporate headhunters.
"If we could, we'd go to their high school coach and talk to him," Gibbs said yesterday. "Our first question is, 'What kind of a person is he?' " Yet he is surprised by the performance of all the newcomers.
"We seem to have kept a good continuity going through this," he said. "It doesn't seem to be disruptive. Sometimes, you worry about that. We are wading our way through it."
Beasley, like Muhammad, has a Super Bowl ring. "Their emphasis is on players who have been in the league," Beasley said. "That makes a difference when you don't have time to groom them like you would in preseason or training camp."
It also makes a difference to the rest of the team. "The players hear 'Tom Beasley' and say, 'That guy can play,' " Gibbs said. "They hear, 'Calvin Muhammad,' and say, 'That guy can play.' They know them, so I don't think it gets them as upset as changes normally would."
Beasley signed the Wednesday before the New England game and played about a third of that game. "I didn't even know some of the guys I lined up beside," he said.
But he didn't feel unwelcome. To the contrary, he said, "It's a family, close-knit feeling. A lot of teams don't have that. At Pittsburgh, Coach (Chuck) Noll had a more businesslike approach.
"Here, it's been easy."
Smith, who says he feels "honored" to be one of the first of the newcomers and calls himself "the veteran new guy," believes Gibbs deserves the credit for the meshing of old and new.
"The more I look, it's got to be the coaching," he said. "Just got to be. Calvin Muhammad, myself . . . we're all coming in and doing as well as anybody here. It's got to be the coaching."
Mauti, a seven-year veteran who chose the Redskins over the New York Jets, said Washington's talent search is not "a shot in the dark. They know exactly what they're getting. They know exactly what they're looking for."
Gibbs has a meeting with each new player to talk over his responsibilities. "He told me I had a specific assignment," said Smith, "and that made it easier for me."
In these seven weeks, the Redskins have placed 11 men on injured reserve, released three and traded one. Special teams captain Pete Cronan, who is on injured reserve with a broken leg, believes this is the type of challenge Beathard and Gibbs best respond to.
"It's exposing their great insight," he said.
The personnel game came full circle yesterday. One of the bigger names to come now has gone. To make room for Moore, who in five years in the NFL has gained 709 yards rushing and 988 with 98 pass receptions, linebacker Jim Youngblood was released.
Ironically, Youngblood had been signed just five weeks ago to replace injured linebacker Rich Milot.
Mark McGrath, a three-year veteran brought back by the Redskins to shore up the receivers, incurred a compound dislocation of his little finger in practice yesterday.
"He should be able to tape it up and go with it," Gibbs said. The Redskins worked Mauti at wide receiver along with the regulars.
Right tackle George Starke missed practice because "his knee is still giving him trouble," Gibbs said.
Running back John Riggins also sat out the session. "His back got sore (Tuesday)," Gibbs said. "We're back to the day-to-day (practice) thing with him."
But there was some good news. Defensive end Manley, whose sprained ankle kept him from playing against the Cowboys, walked through some drills and is listed as probable for Sunday's game in St. Louis.