CARLISLE, PA., AUG. 18 -- The Washington Redskins running backs are an unusual lot. Among them, there have been three injuries, one holdout and one emerging phenom in the past two weeks, begging the question: Who can figure out what's going on in the backfield this summer at Dickinson College?
Kelvin Bryant is injured again, bothered by the same strained right quadriceps that kept him out of practice almost all of last week. He stood and watched today's practice with a baseball cap on his head, unable to play, and declined to answer questions about his condition. Considering Bryant's long history of college and professional injuries, coaches and team officials said they are concerned that he is missing practice again.
George Rogers is back, although he did go to the training room momentarily to have his left big toe, sprained two weeks ago, taped up again. Keith Griffin, who was sitting at home two weeks ago, holding out for more money, has become the workhorse, especially in passing situations, and is quite happy about it.
Rookie Timmy Smith, a slashing, stocky I-back with a steel plate in his right ankle, said he thinks he can make the Redskins' roster this year -- and probably is right.
Smith, the leading rusher in the team's first preseason game with 78 yards on 19 carries, is being given every opportunity to make the team and to prove that he, too, is not injury-prone. He played in just five games in his last two years at Texas Tech because of knee and ankle injuries.
The fifth running back likely will be Rick Badanjek, in his second year from Maryland, or two-year veteran Reggie Branch, known for his work on special teams. Kenny Fells and Dwight Garner, who has a bruised left foot, also are in the picture for that fifth spot.
Of them all, Bryant attracted the most attention today by simply not playing.
"He aggravated his strain," said running backs coach Don Breaux. "When he has to accelerate, he's just not totally well yet. We're just going to monitor it. We hope it's not serious, but it doesn't seem to be getting better by him being out here."
Bryant's right thigh "stiffened up" in practice Monday as he ran a pass pattern, Breaux said. Head trainer Bubba Tyer said Bryant was "just sore," adding, "This is minor, it really is.
"We're using common sense, putting him through rehabilitation," Tyer said. "We'll take it day-to-day with him. We hope by the weekend he could go. Right now, when he attempts to accelerate, to go for a pass, it tends to tighten on him. We'll just hold him out until he gets well."
Bryant has been injured in each of his college and professional seasons. Last year, his first with the Redskins, he stretched two knee ligaments in Week 2 of the season and missed six games. Asked if Bryant has a chronic injury problem, Coach Joe Gibbs said: "I don't know. I'm not a mystic here. I hope not."
But Gibbs is not pleased about Bryant missing practice.
"I've said that before, that he's going to have to get over it and stay healthy and stay on the field," Gibbs said. "So far in camp, that's not been the case. Hopefully, he's going to be able to turn the corner on these things and stay out here and get work. I think he wants to. He came out and worked even with it sore for a couple days, then it got sore on him yesterday to the point where he had to take off a day."
Gibbs said he had no second thoughts about using Bryant in the preseason game last Friday. After missing all but a sliver of practice time last week, he caught three passes for 31 yards against Pittsburgh in the Redskins' 23-17 win.
"The guy wanted to play so we gave him a shot," Gibbs said. "He came out of the game all right. It got sore again on him this week. Yesterday, he ran an up-route and hurt it."
Bryant dashed past reporters today, saying he felt "fine," but would have no other comments. A team spokesperson said Bryant wouldn't talk because he believes reporters want to ask him questions only when he is injured.
Injuries and Griffin's week-long holdout have given Smith, the Redskins' fifth-round draft choice but third pick overall, more room to run. Everyone loves rookies who look good. Smith is a rookie. He also happens to look good.
"He is strong, and I think slashing is probably his style of running," Breaux said. "He picks in there, too, but he can spill on you. In every scrimmage, he always does it, bounces out there once or twice."
A highly coveted running back out of Hobbs High in New Mexico, he ran for 711 yards on 164 carries as a sophomore at Texas Tech, then ran into trouble with injuries. In his junior year, he had reconstructive surgery to repair two ligaments in his left knee and played in only four games. In his senior year, an offensive lineman fell on his ankle during practice after the first game of the season, cracking the fibula. He still wears a six-inch plate in his ankle. He figures he will have it removed when it bothers him, but, right now, he doesn't even know it's there.
Smith was in a cast two months with the broken ankle and was not able to work out for scouts until just before the draft in April. The Redskins put him through a physical and workout a week before the draft and decided he was healthy enough to pick.
"I still feel a little rusty, mainly because the game the other night was my first in a while," Smith said. He fumbled twice in the second half. The Redskins lost the first and recovered the second.
"But I think I can make it here," he said. "I've just got to stay healthy and show them what I can do."
Tim Morrison will start at right cornerback for the Redskins against the Green Bay Packers Saturday at 2 p.m. at Madison, Wis. The Redskins are rotating their candidates for the starting job at that position, said defensive backs assistant Emmitt Thomas. Vernon Dean started the Pittsburgh game; Barry Wilburn will start at Tampa Bay next weekend, Thomas said . . . Pittsburgh's 77-yard touchdown pass was not Dean's fault, Thomas said. Dean was playing a short zone and free safety Curtis Jordan was playing a deep zone on the play, he said . . .
Strong safety Ken Coffey (bruised left hip), tight end Terry Orr (bruised left shoulder) and linebackers Anthony Copeland (sprained left knee) and Kurt Gouveia (broken right hand) missed practice.
Wright Likely to Start
United Press International
GREEN BAY, Aug. 18 -- Green Bay quarterback Randy Wright probably will make his 1987 debut Saturday in a starting role against the Washington Redskins even though he ended his contract holdout just one week ago, Packers Coach Forrest Gregg said.
"If his arm were to happen to get sore late in the week or something like that, then we could always change our mind," Gregg said. "But it's a good possibility that he will start."