Washington Redskins wide receiver Michael Westbrook will be in a cast for six weeks, but has ruled out surgery to repair his broken right wrist--a decision he hopes will enable him to miss as few games as possible.
Westbrook, who broke his wrist during Sunday's 35-28 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, intends to practice this week and said he'll try to play this weekend against the New York Giants.
"It's definitely a possibility," Westbrook said. "I'm practicing this week, and I'm going to see how sensitive it is. If it's too sensitive, then I probably won't go. But if I can play with it, I'm going to."
Meantime, veteran kick returner Brian Mitchell criticized Coach Norv Turner on his weekly radio show on WTEM. Mitchell said Turner--or someone--should have informed him of the decision to have James Thrash share kickoff return duties with Mitchell.
Mitchell was told during Sunday's loss to Philadelphia to let Thrash return the last kickoff, and on Monday, Turner said he envisioned the two sharing the job.
"I was [at Redskin Park] all day and I saw these coaches and none of the coaches want to say anything to me," Mitchell said. "I think the way that was handled, that's not respectful to me. Because if I have something to say to Norv or anybody else, I'm going to tell him before I say it to anybody else. To not talk to me and say nothing about it all day, I take it as a slap in the face. . . . But if they want him to catch it, I'll let him catch it. I'm not going to do anything to disrupt this team or anything to be selfish."
As for Westbrook, he insisted he wouldn't be sidelined long--if at all.
"I haven't played 16 games [in a season] yet," he said. "That's important to me. If I am down, it's not going to be for long."
As a precaution, Redskins officials activated practice-squad member Derrius Thompson and plan to start veteran wide receiver Irving Fryar on Sunday if Westbrook can't play.
Trainer Bubba Tyer characterized Westbrook's status as "undetermined."
"I think by Friday we'll have a real good idea of what he can do," Tyer said. "We'll do a little bit tomorrow, try not to overdo it tomorrow, and try to do a little bit more on Thursday."
Westbrook doesn't know when he fractured the bone at the base of his thumb, but was aware of it stiffening during the second quarter on Sunday. It hurt in the fourth quarter when he made two spectacular grabs (for 48 and 43 yards), teaming with quarterback Brad Johnson for a two-play touchdown drive that gave the Redskins a 28-27 lead.
"There were so many things, so many incidents going on in that game, I have no clue" how he hurt it, Westbrook said. "All I know is adrenaline and trying to win the game. It was just a lot of intensity on Sunday."
Redskins officials consulted experts about how to treat the wrist. One option was surgery to insert a screw to stabilize the fracture as it heals. But because it is a hairline fracture, with the bone in perfect position, Westbrook vetoed the idea in favor of a simple cast.
"I don't think I'm going to have surgery until the season is over because I'm not happy about opening my skin up," said Westbrook, who underwent surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck in the offseason. "Not until this thing is over with, at least, and I've played all I can play."
By that point, Tyer said, the fracture should be healed and surgery will be a moot point.
The fourth overall pick in the 1995 draft, Westbrook has played in 57 of 73 games, having been sidelined by injury for at least a portion of each year. But he noted yesterday that he had played "with a hole in my knee" two seasons ago, referring to ligament tears that he said a doctor later told him he should not have played with. This season, he leads the team with 40 receptions for 814 yards and six touchdowns.
Yesterday, he looked far more rested and confident than he had Monday, when he arrived at Redskins Park, X-rays in hand, in the same suit he had worn after Sunday's game. Unable to sleep because of the pain, he had gone to Arlington Hospital at 3 a.m. Monday to see a doctor.
Yesterday he drove himself to Redskin Park, boasting that he could both steer and talk on a cell phone despite the cast. "I have strength in my fingers," he said. "When it's been pushed back is the only time it's unbearable pain."
Westbrook will be fitted with progressively smaller casts over the coming weeks, Tyer said. The idea is to give him maximum flexibility to catch balls without further endangering his wrist. His current cast starts just below his elbow and extends to his right thumb, covering roughly one-third of his palm. As the casts get smaller, more of his palm will be exposed. He will also be able to flex his wrist forward slightly, but the cast will prevent it from flexing backward.
"I'll probably use more body and compensate a little more on the left hand, but I'd use my right hand, too," Westbrook said of his new receiving strategy.
Said Tyer: "He wants to play, and we're going to attempt to do what we can to help him play."
Redskins Notes: Linebacker Twan Russell, who suffered a meniscus tear of the left knee, will undergo arthroscopic surgery today in Florida and has been placed on injured reserve. . . . Cornerback Tito Paul, who suffered the same injury, also has been placed on injured reserve. . . . To bolster their flagging special teams, the Redskins signed safety Curtis Buckley, 29, who played for Tampa Bay (1993-95), San Francisco (1996-half of 1998) and the New York Giants (second half of 1998). . . . Replacing Thompson on the practice squad is wide receiver Rondel Menendez, 24, a rookie from Eastern Kentucky and seventh-round draft pick of Atlanta.