ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., AUG. 4 -- Jeff Rutledge hit the turf hard, just as Cary Conklin had two days earlier. That's how quickly a night that had been mostly good news turned sour for the Washington Redskins.
Stan Humphries threw for two touchdowns and Reggie Dupard ran for one as the Redskins easily defeated the Buffalo Bills, 27-16, in a controlled scrimmage in front of 20,831 tonight at Rich Stadium.
It was a night in which their running game got going, that rookie defensive tackle Kent Wells again made a couple of big plays, former Gonzaga High star Marcus Cherry caught a 35-yard touchdown pass and Kelvin Bryant got back on the field for the first time in nearly two years.
But all the positives were lost when the Redskins started licking their extensive wounds. The worst was to running back Reggie Branch, who fractured his right ankle and will have surgery on Sunday.
The news for two quarterbacks also was dismal. Conklin's sore right knee is worse than previously thought and he may need to have arthroscopic surgery. Conklin was struck on the knee during Wednesday's practice and it has gotten no better after three days' rest. The Redskins said they would give it a couple of days in hopes of a dramatic cure.
And then there was Rutledge. Just when he was looking comfortable in his new offense -- 14 for 16 for 190 yards and four touchdowns his last three appearances -- he suffered a severely bruised right shoulder when rookie linebacker Marvcus Patton drilled him to the turf and rolled on top of him.
X-rays were negative, but Rutledge will be sidelined at least a few days, maybe more.
What made the Redskins angry was that this was a controlled scrimmage and the agreement was that quarterbacks were off limits.
"That shouldn't have happened," Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said. "We were back there around their quarterbacks all night, and then the first shot they get at ours, that happens. I just feel like there's no excuse for something like that happening."
Patton said he attempted to pull up "but saw someone coming from the other direction and was afraid to stop. I thought he was going to move, but he stayed right there."
Rutledge rolled his eyes at that explanation, saying, "I don't know how it could have been accidental."
He normally wears a flak jacket during games, but had left it home for these scrimmages. Not only was he unprotected, he was mentally unprepared and his body took the full force of the blow.
"I was just getting comfortable with things and now this happens," he said. "I just hope this doesn't set me back too far. Maybe I'll wake up in the morning and feel great. It feels pretty bad right now."
Conklin, the rookie from Washington who was supposed to compete with Rutledge for the third spot, said his knee "hasn't gotten better. It's stiff and sore. It's depressing. I can't even get out there to compete for anything right now. I can only hope it'll start to get better in the next day or two and that there's no damage in there."
The injuries come at a time when the Redskins couldn't have been more impressed with Rutledge. After going five for five against the Steelers on Wednesday, he said he'd been "a nervous wreck. I'm out there fighting for my life and it's a system I still don't understand."
He went back out tonight after Mark Rypien and Humphries directed the first 30 plays of the 50-play scrimmage. The Redskins led the Bills, 10-3, and Rutledge directed them on a quick 45-yard drive that resulted in Dupard's one-yard touchdown run.
Rutledge threw the ball three times, hitting Jimmie Johnson for gains of 18, 6 and 8 yards. He came back for their final turn and hit Percy Waddle for five and Brian Mitchell for six before the injury.
"I was getting to the point where I could feel comfortable with things," he said. "That's the worst thing about this. I know there's still a lot to learn, but I was starting to see things better. I had a lot to go through with minicamp, summer school and the whole thing."
After Rutledge left, Humphries returned and connected with Cherry, a free agent receiver from Boston College, on a 35-yard play.
These are supposed to be meaningless scrimmages. But what were once played on faraway practice fields in front of a couple of dozen loyal fans have turned into mini-events.
All that was missing tonight was marching bands and cheerleaders at Rich Stadium to see a couple of teams run offensive line and seven-on-seven drills and, finally, a controlled scrimmage.
Fans came and paid their $3 even though Bills quarterback Jim Kelly didn't play and the Bills are hurting because of injuries and holdouts.
The Redskins rushed for 93 yards and passed for 215. Mitchell rushed for 33 yards on five carries, and Earnest Byner rushed for 25 on three carries. James Wilder had 11 yards on three carries, and Bryant made his debut by making a 29-yard over-the-shoulder catch.
Rypien was in for 17 plays, and he completed six of 12 passes for 72 yards and an interception. One of his six completions was the first of tackle Raleigh McKenzie's career. That came during the Redskins' first possession, on second and four at the Redskins 40.
Terry Orr bobbled a pass, then tipped it in the air. McKenzie, trailing the play, jumped into the air and came down with the rebound for a nine-yard gain.
Rypien also found Bryant for the 30-yarder, getting the Redskins to the Buffalo 19-yard line for the 10th play of the drive. That drive ended with safety Leonard Smith stepping in front of Mike Tice for an interception.
Rypien stayed around for seven plays of the Redskins' second possession, and he took them to the Buffalo 16, where Chip Lohmiller kicked a 33-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Rypien looked sharp that drive, hitting Walter Stanley for nine and Gary Clark for eight. Gerald Riggs also made his 1990 debut, bouncing outside for 12 yards the first time he touched the ball.
Humphries led the next 13 plays and completed six of 11 for 74 yards and a touchdown. While the Redskins continued to sputter, he did hit a big play for a 10-0 lead. It came on the final play of their third possession when he connected with tight end John Brandes for a 25-yard touchdown play.
Brandes beat linebacker Matt Monger for his second touchdown catch in the last two scrimmages.
He was a Plan B signee from Indianapolis and acquired primarily as a special-teamer. That's his pride and apparently his joy. On the second day of camp, he predicted he would lead the Redskins in special teams tackles, just as he had for the Colts last season.
"I didn't know how many chances I'd have to catch the ball, but as long as they keep them coming, I'll keep trying," he said. "This team has some very good pass routes. I love it."
The Bills got a 40-yard field goal from Scott Norwood to close it to 10-3. That's when Rutledge entered.