Disturbed by Steve Cox's recent string of short, wobbly punts, the Washington Redskins said yesterday they considered replacing him. Instead, Coach Joe Gibbs decided to reduce the load on Cox's mind and right foot and eliminate his kickoff duties.

"What we're going to do is . . . let him concentrate on one thing -- punts -- and hopefully get him into a groove there," said Gibbs, who added that Ali Haji-Sheikh will replace Cox on kickoffs.

The Redskins waived three players off their injured reserve list yesterday, including quarterback Ed Rubbert, who led the replacement team to two victories during the NFL players' strike.

Gibbs said quarterback is a crowded position for the Redskins, and he thinks Rubbert would have a better opportunity elsewhere. But Gibbs also invited Rubbert to next July's training camp.

"{The strike} gave me the opportunity I was looking for," Rubbert said yesterday. "The highlight was that Cardinals game {in which he threw for 334 yards and three touchdowns}. That was memorable."

The other Redskins released yesterday were defensive back Charles Jackson and defensive tackle Chris Spachman.

The team also announced that guard/tackle Ed Simmons' arthroscopic surgery yesterday revealed a sprained medial collateral ligament. Trainer Bubba Tyer said Simmons will wear a brace for 10 days. If Simmons is placed on the injured reserve list, General Manager Bobby Beathard said 12th-round pick Ray Hitchcock likely will be activated to take his place.

Cox averaged 43.6 yards per punt last season, but he has averaged 32.4, 35.1 and 32.7 yards per punt in three of his last four games. And that includes a 23-yard punt late in last Sunday's Detroit Lions game. Monday, Gibbs and Beathard decided to bring in three established punters -- former Chargers and Bears punter Maury Buford, former Eagles punter Ray Criswell and former North Carolina punter Tom Barnhart. Beathard said he'll work out former Arkansas punter Greg Horne today.

Gibbs called Cox yesterday to let him know what the team was doing.

After the three punters worked out yesterday, Beathard said: "Right now, off the workouts, we decided we weren't going to make a change. If a guy had come in with a background, we might have considered something. I mean, if Maury Buford had had a great day, it would've been a tough decision."

Cox, who has proved valuable as a long-range field goal kicker, says he doesn't mind Gibbs' decision to let Haji-Sheikh kick off.

"I don't think this is anything I can't overcome," Cox said. "You don't last seven years in this league by letting a few bad games get you down."