Middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter will have to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, Washington Redskins officials said yesterday.
The club also may have lost defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson and punter Bryan Barker for the final month of the season. All three were injured during Thursday's 27-20 loss at Dallas.
According to Coach Steve Spurrier, the Redskins expect Wilkinson to be sidelined for two to four weeks with a torn calf muscle. Barker was scheduled to return to the Washington area yesterday after being hospitalized overnight in Dallas and undergoing surgery for a broken nose. He told team officials he believes he can continue playing, but Spurrier said he likely will end Barker's season and go with a different punter, probably rookie Craig Jarrett.
Spurrier said he planned to stick with Danny Wuerffel as his starting quarterback against the New York Giants on Dec. 8 at FedEx Field. But he indicated that rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey and other young players could receive extensive playing time in the remaining four games, with the Redskins' record at 5-7 and their playoff hopes all but extinguished.
"We'll do a little combination," Spurrier said when asked at Redskins Park whether he would stick with his veteran players or play youngsters with an eye toward next season. "We just have to go play. If we can't make the playoffs -- and looking at it, that's probably the case -- you just have to try to keep improving. . . . I would think we need to play some more people as we go."
Trotter likely will undergo surgery in about two weeks and is facing four to six months of rehabilitation, team officials said. Trotter suffered the injury when his foot got caught on the artificial turf at Texas Stadium on a running play by the Cowboys on which Trotter didn't get hit.
Trotter, a two-time Pro Bowler, signed a seven-year, $36 million contract in April as a free agent and leads the Redskins with 101 tackles this season. He struggled a bit early in the season but had been dominating of late. Kevin Mitchell likely will replace Trotter as the team's starting middle linebacker.
"He was pretty down," safety Ifeanyi Ohalete said of Trotter. "That was hard for him."
Wilkinson is slated to miss a game for the first time in his five seasons with the Redskins. He last missed a game in 1997, while with the Cincinnati Bengals, and had been playing with a troublesome wrist injury for much of this season. Like Trotter, he was hurt Thursday on a play on which he was not hit.
"They were turf things," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "Guys thought the turf was pretty sticky. It's just a shame to see it happen."
The Redskins believed that Wilkinson's season probably is done, but he said he is leaving open the possibility of playing at some point in December if the tear in his calf is not too severe.
"They know I snapped it," Wilkinson said. "They don't know the extent. We'll do all the tests on Monday."
Barker suffered an open nasal fracture while retrieving the ball on a blocked field goal attempt on which he was the holder for place kicker James Tuthill. Jarrett recently had a stint on the Redskins' practice squad and could take over for Barker in the season's final month.
Spurrier, who gave his players yesterday and the weekend off, said he won't make his fifth starting quarterback change of the season, at least not yet. He penciled in Wuerffel to make a third straight start after Wuerffel threw three touchdown passes and three interceptions Thursday in the Redskins' 10th straight loss to the Cowboys.
"We'll go the same way," Spurrier said. "Danny had a couple bad plays, but he did some good things out there, too. He didn't play that bad."
Wuerffel said: "I wish I could have those first two interceptions back. But I feel like I played pretty well and competed. We just didn't make enough plays to win."
Wuerffel's most costly interception wasn't his fault. His pass caromed off running back Kenny Watson and was grabbed by rookie safety Roy Williams, whose five-yard return for a touchdown got the Cowboys to 20-17 in the third quarter.
"That was the most disappointing loss," said Spurrier, whose club gets another chance to break the Cowboys' hex in the Dec. 29 season finale. "To have a 10-point lead on a team that offensively hasn't scored a lot and then lose it, that's tough. We somehow managed to let that one ball go through, and then it went from there. . . . We had an excellent chance to beat those guys. We just didn't do it. We get another crack at them in a month. We can't get too down, too long. We have to keep on keeping on."
Spurrier said he likely will work Ramsey and other youngsters into the mix down the stretch. At this point, the Redskins have been reduced to playing for their dignity and next season's jobs.
"We're not quitters," Wynn said. "We're going to keep playing and make the most we can of things. We'll try to go 9-7 and take all the positives out of this year that we still can."
Said Wuerffel: "A lot of things can happen between now and the end of the season. When things are going well, it's easy for guys to be motivated. I hope and believe that everyone will hang in there and keep going and keep fighting and play the best we can."