Just two weeks into the season, the Washington Redskins already have put one of their running backs in traction at Sibley Memorial Hospital.
And, this time, it isn't John Riggins.
George Rogers, who sprained a ligament in his lower back on a stutter step around left end in the fourth quarter of the Redskins' 16-13 victory over Houston, spent last night in traction in the hospital.
When reached by phone in his room yesterday afternoon, Rogers said he was "doing fine," adding, "I'll be out tomorrow (Tuesday)." He then said he had to go for therapy, but would be back later. Repeated calls to his room went unanswered.
Rogers' optimism was not exactly matched word for word by the Redskins (1-1).
He is expected back well in advance of Sunday's game against Philadelphia (0-2) at 1 p.m. at RFK Stadium. But, after watching Riggins twice check himself into Sibley for traction and treatment of problems in his lower back and hip last season, they are taking nothing for granted.
"Hopefully, in a day or two, that thing will calm down and he'll be okay and we'll be able to get him back," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "Now, how fast (he can come back) and what it looks like he'll be able to do, we'll just have to wait and take it day to day."
Head trainer Bubba Tyer said he would have listed Rogers as "questionable" (a 50-50 chance of playing) for Sunday's game if he had made out an injury report yesterday. (The official report is released Wednesday.)
Yet Rogers is not the Redskins' only worry at running back. Riggins himself still is a concern after injuring a hamstring muscle in each of the Redskins' first two games.
This means third-down back Keith Griffin, who gained 25 rushing yards and 17 receiving in extended duty Sunday, was the top healthy back at Redskin Park as the practice week began.
As for Riggins, "It's a nagging thing that keeps bothering him," Gibbs said of his 36-year-old running back, the oldest player at his position in the NFL. "Hopefully, he'll be ready to go."
Tyer said Riggins' injury isn't particularly bad, but it's limiting. "He can't do everything he wants to do."
Against Dallas, Riggins strained his right hamstring diving for a touchdown. Against Houston, he strained his left hamstring (an old high school injury) early in the game, possibly on one of his long runs just before Rogers' lurching 31-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Tyer said there is a calcium deposit on the end of Riggins' hip bone due to the old injury, but added he didn't know if that made Riggins more susceptible to similar injuries.
The injury was not serious enough to keep Riggins out of the entire rest of the game. In the fourth quarter, in the possession after Rogers was helped off the field, Riggins returned to carry six more times for 24 yards.
"John came up to us and said, 'Let me give it another try,' " running backs coach Don Breaux said. "So we put him in."
Riggins, who gained 84 yards in 16 carries, didn't go through a minor workout yesterday, but that was no surprise. "That's not John," Breaux said. He did work out in the weight room, Breaux said. "He said he felt no worse than he did last week. That's good."
Rogers, who gained 78 yards in 15 carries, including the touchdown run that was his longest as a Redskin, was in "quite a bit of discomfort" when he arrived at Redskin Park yesterday morning, Tyer said.
He had to be helped out of his jersey and pads after the game, and put on a corset to protect his back Sunday night.
"He didn't sleep well last night," Tyer said, and when he showed up still in pain, the Redskins sent him off to the hospital.
"It sounds familiar," Gibbs said, smiling just a little. "It's our running back problem we have here.
"We're back to our 'Who's going to show up Wednesday (for practice)' question," Gibbs said. "Whoever shows up Wednesday plays Sunday."
The Redskins have mentioned the similarities of Rogers and Riggins for months now, from their running style to their size and durability.
Now, ironically, they have another comparison.
"That young body," Breaux said of Rogers, 26. "He stopped to make a cut as he was going outside and sprained something in there. When things like this happen, you're always concerned."
It's perhaps even more important when the running game ranks second in the league with an average of 180 yards per game. The 240 rushing yards the Redskins had against Houston was the most they have gained since they ran for 241 against Dallas in the seventh game of the 1984 season.
"We're running about as good as we can run," Gibbs said. "We're not doing the job on passing. It's the skill part of our game, the passing part of our game, that is our concern."
Quarterback Joe Theismann has thrown six interceptions and has fumbled twice in two games, yet, at least against the Oilers, Gibbs blames four surprising free safety blitzes for most of the Redskins' problems.
"That's what I'd like to have back," he said.
Yet he admits the offense is "not smooth yet." He misses the big play that seems to be lacking, on offense in the form of a long pass to gain the field position the Redskins haven't had, on defense in the form of a big turnover or two.
The Redskins have turned the ball over 10 times; their opponents, just once (a fumble).
Six times Sunday, the Oilers began drives inside the 50-yard line. Sometimes the special teams were at fault, other times, the Washington offense, turning the ball over.
"It was a very unusual game," Gibbs said. "The classic example of the field-position game."
Tyer said he expects all of the Redskins' injured players to play against the Eagles. The most serious injuries, other than Rogers', seem to be linebacker Mel Kaufman's pinched nerve in his neck and free safety Curtis Jordan's sprained left knee.