Washington Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels is expected to miss the first game of his NFL career on Sunday because of a sprained left ankle.
"It's kind of hard right now to break that streak," said Samuels, who also has a neck stinger. "But I'm really not sure what I can do at this point."
But more significant than the third-year player's string of 38 straight games, the Redskins' offensive line -- which has been shaky at full strength -- is in dire straits for Sunday night's contest against the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field. Right guard Brenden Stai is out because of left knee tendinitis. In place of Stai, Wilbert Brown is expected to start his second straight game -- and second NFL start -- while Alex Sulfsted starts his first NFL game in place of Samuels.
"They've done nothing all week," said Coach Steve Spurrier, referring to Samuels and Stai, "so they are extremely doubtful."
Despite practicing only twice since being cut by the Cleveland Browns nearly two months ago, Tre Johnson occasionally will spell Brown, who started the season as the backup center before making his first NFL start at left guard on Oct. 13 against the New Orleans Saints filling in for an injured David Loverne.
Loverne is back starting at left guard, but if he struggles the Redskins won't hesitate to plug in Kipp Vickers, who played against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery three weeks ago. Vickers also will be a backup for Sulfsted.
"You got two extra parts," said offensive line coach Kim Helton, referring to Vickers and Johnson.
The Redskins have allowed 22 sacks this season, including 13 in the previous two games. And Samuels has been an improbable culprit because of various injuries that he had publicly played down. Samuels has suffered a stomach virus that caused him to lose 10 pounds early, a bruised thigh and sprained ankle. The ailments didn't prevent Samuels from extending his starting streak to every game since being selected third overall in the 2000 draft. But Samuels never fully healed from the sprained left ankle, which occurred early in training camp and was aggravated last Sunday in the second quarter against the Packers.
"A lot of pain in my ankle, that's kind of holding me back a little bit," Samuels said in a rare admission. "Right now, it's kind of questionable."
Sulfsted was solid enough against the Packers filling in for Samuels to get the start Sunday. "I wish Chris was healthy because he's our guy," said Sulfsted, who was selected by Kansas City Chiefs in the sixth round last year. "But I'm pretty excited to get my first start."
Daylight, and Shade
Spurrier continues juggling his wide receivers, and Sunday's beneficiary will be second-year player Darnerien McCants, who hasn't played this season. McCants -- on the inactive list the previous three games -- will play in multiple-receiver sets. But the shuffling means that Spurrier will place a veteran wideout on the inactive list.
Spurrier declined to name that receiver but it's expected to be Jacquez Green -- who is also returns punts -- or Kevin Lockett, whose playing time has been reduced after starts against the Tennessee Titans and Saints.
"I have an idea but I'm not going to tell you," Spurrier said. "It's not that big a deal. One of them might get hurt between now and Sunday. We have to sit one [receiver] down, and we just felt we need to give him [McCants] a chance. That's the way I coach. I can't play the same guys every week if they're not really playing well." . . .
Eight-year veteran safety Sam Shade hasn't hesitated to give pointers to second-year player Ifeanyi Ohalete, despite the fact that Ohalete is increasingly replacing Shade in passing situations. Nonetheless, if Ohalete starts on Sunday -- which is almost certain to happen -- Shade knows it will feel different.
"It's definitely something new," said Shade, who has been mainly a starter since his second NFL season. "I've been starting for a long time in this league.''