The Washington Redskins re-signed guard Rod Milstead yesterday, and officially handed their punting job back to Matt Turk for keeps by releasing fill-in punter Brian Hansen.
The team signed Hansen to punt in its game at Dallas on Oct. 24 after Turk broke a finger on his left hand. The Redskins cut Milstead to create a roster spot for Hansen, and hoped to re-sign Milstead soon thereafter. But Turk was sidelined for a second game--the Redskins' win over the Chicago Bears on Oct. 31--because of back spasms, and Milstead's return was delayed.
Redskins officials were left with little choice this week after starting left guard Keith Sims sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee during Sunday's 34-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Club officials say that Sims will be sidelined for three weeks. Brad Badger moves into the starting lineup, and the Redskins needed Milstead as a backup.
"We didn't want to release Rod in the first place," Coach Norv Turner said. "Now, with Sims's injury, we had to get him back."
Some club officials, furious with Turk because they suspect he at least worsened his finger injury playing pickup basketball, had toyed with the notion in recent weeks of keeping Hansen and cutting Turk. But Hansen didn't punt particularly well, and the Redskins felt they didn't have any alternatives to Turk. On Monday, for the second time in two weeks, team officials discussed the possibility of releasing Turk but decided against it. Club officials still have not ruled out fining him, according to sources close to the situation.
Turk was booed loudly by the crowd at Redskins Stadium during the Bills game, when the three-time Pro Bowler's two punts totaled only 61 yards. At one point, Turk threw his helmet in frustration on the sideline. Turner said yesterday, though, he thinks he now can count on Turk to be healthy and begin punting better.
"Matt's a good punter," Turner said. "He's just going through a rough period with the finger and the back. We need to get him back to punting the ball the way he's capable of doing. He was on the verge of coming out of it when he got hurt. He's okay physically now."
Redskins officials decided against making any lineup changes this week to the NFL's last-ranked defense, other than reinserting Leomont Evans as the starter at free safety. He missed the Bills game because of a concussion, but the Redskins hope he'll practice today and play on Sunday at Philadelphia. Team officials hope that starting defensive end Marco Coleman will return to practice on Thursday after being hospitalized because of an infection in his right knee.