Washington Redskins officials still are investigating the circumstances surrounding punter Matt Turk's finger injury but have reached no conclusions yet, director of player personnel Vinny Cerrato said yesterday.
"We're looking into it," Cerrato said.
Meanwhile, veteran wide receiver Irving Fryar confirmed yesterday that he gave Turk a stern lecture during a private meeting in recent days. Fryar said he stressed to Turk that he needs to realize he hurt the team with his actions because he was sidelined for Sunday's loss at Dallas.
Cerrato said that team officials have not determined whether Turk suffered the injury before or during the Redskins' win at Arizona 11 days ago, or whether he suffered or worsened the injury playing basketball the following day. Asked what disciplinary action, if any, the club plans to take against Turk if Redskins officials become convinced that Turk at least aggravated the injury playing basketball, Cerrato declined to comment.
Cerrato is the first Redskins official to say publicly that the team is investigating the matter.
Turk said yesterday: "The Redskins can investigate if they want to investigate. If they feel the need, that's fine. They're not going to find anything special or unusual. It was a football injury, and I went by the book in how I dealt with it. I never denied playing basketball, but I didn't do anything to my finger playing basketball."
Turk reiterated yesterday that he thinks he suffered the broken finger on his left hand in warmups before the Cardinals game. He reported the injury to the Redskins the following day and received treatment, he said, before playing basketball that night at a fitness center in Reston. He did not suffer or worsen the injury during the basketball game, he said. Two days later, X-rays revealed a fracture, and Turk underwent surgery that night.
According to sources close to the situation, at least one person has contacted a club official to indicate he knows that Turk injured himself on the basketball court.
Of his meeting with Turk, Fryar said: "We need him, and he wasn't there for us. For whatever reason, he wasn't available, and it hurt the team. I was firm with him."
Fryar said he didn't attempt to pin down Turk on the question of when and how the injury occurred, but thinks he made his point that Turk must realize his responsibilities to his teammates. The Redskins cut reserve offensive lineman Rod Milstead last week when they signed fill-in punter Brian Hansen, upsetting Coach Norv Turner and others in the organization.
"Rumors are floating around," Fryar said. "People are saying different things. Nobody knows what to believe. Only he knows for sure. Whatever the case, stuff happens. Things happen in this sport and in life. What matters is, he wasn't available to punt for us. We need him. It wasn't just him that was affected by his actions. It was all of us being affected by it. I've been in that position before, and he needs to realize that what he does affects everyone on this team."
Said Turk: "Irving and I talked in the trainer's room. He made his points to me, and I agreed with him. We were on the same page. We want the same thing. I want to help the team. I want the team to be successful, and that's what he wants."
Turk, a three-time Pro Bowler, was on the Redskins' inactive list for their 38-20 loss to the Cowboys. Hansen was signed the previous Friday and struggled in the game, with one punt returned 70 yards for a touchdown by the Cowboys' Deion Sanders.
Both Turk and Hansen participated in yesterday's practice at Redskin Park, although Hansen took the snaps in the full-scale special-teams drills while Turk's participation mostly was limited to punting on a side field. The Redskins plan to decide late this week whether Turk or Hansen will punt on Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Redskins Stadium.
Turner declined to comment on the matter yesterday, saying he wants to concentrate on coaching the team and expressing the hope that Turk will be ready to punt soon. He said during his weekly news conference on Monday he had "no information" to convince him that Turk hurt himself in any way other than during the Arizona game. Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder referred questions regarding the situation to Cerrato.
The Redskins seem to be leaning against disciplining Turk but, according to sources, are leaving open the possibility of fining him. There appear to be differing views among club officials about how to proceed.
Team officials have decided to give Turk his job back once his finger heals sufficiently. According to sources, club officials don't think they could find a suitable replacement, but they likely will consider cutting Turk once they believe they have a viable alternative--perhaps during the offseason. If the Redskins decide not to fine Turk, sources said, the main reason would be that team officials feel they need him to punt well this season and don't want to alienate him.
A fine probably would produce an appeal by the players' union on Turk's behalf. Union officials have been monitoring the situation, waiting to intervene if the Redskins act.