Quarterback Mark Brunell suffered no setbacks with his strained left hamstring in Monday night's loss to Dallas at FedEx Field, Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday, but several other players picked up minor injuries.

Brunell said his hamstring felt fatigued late in the game, and Gibbs raved about his quarterback's performance under less than ideal circumstances. "I thought it was a heroic effort from his standpoint," Gibbs said.

Starting strong safety Matt Bowen pulled his groin in the first half when nearly sacking Dallas quarterback Vinny Testaverde and could not return to the game. "You can tell when something is wrong," Bowen said after the game, "and it just didn't feel right after that." Gibbs was unsure of Bowen's status for Sunday's game in Cleveland against the Browns.

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles dislocated a middle finger early in the game, Gibbs said, and put it back into place himself. He returned to the game after missing one series. Gibbs expects Coles to play with considerable discomfort Sunday.

Kickoff returner Chad Morton suffered a knee sprain and a concussion, but Gibbs said he expects him to be fine for this week. "His knee was pretty sore today and with that we'll see," Gibbs said. "But it's nothing serious there."

Defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin tear) said he does not expect to play Sunday but has not ruled out a return for the following week.

Surprise Phone Call

Linebacker LaVar Arrington, who is expected to miss at least one more game after undergoing minor knee surgery last week, called into a postgame radio talk show early yesterday morning after the Redskins' loss to Dallas to implore fans not to get too down on the team.

Arrington, who is still on crutches, phoned in around 2:15 a.m. on his way home from the game, which he watched from a suite at FedEx Field. "I'm a fan," Arrington said. "I was heckling Dallas fans and everything."

After listening to a few callers question the team's dedication, Arrington called in to praise the effort of his teammates and asked the fans not to panic about the club's 1-2 start.

In his 10 minutes on the air, Arrington attributed Washington's inconsistency to growing pains as the players continue to adjust to a new coaching staff. "The guys kept fighting," Arrington said. "This is a special team. I know we're 1-2, but this is a special group of guys."

Arrington met with James Andrews, who performed the surgery on his right knee, Monday night and said he is feeling much better. Arrington is aiming to return for the Oct. 10 game against Baltimore. He expects to be off crutches in a few days.

Thrash Proves a 'Go-To Guy'

Wide receiver James Thrash has been an essential blocker this season, willing to take on much bigger opponents to aid the running game, and he made his first contributions to the passing game in Monday night's loss.

Thrash caught four passes for 47 yards against the Cowboys. He helped Brunell get through a rough stretch early in the second half by making consecutive catches for a total of 31 yards and seems primed to make more regular contributions with his hands.

"James, you can count on him," Brunell said. "He's a go-to guy. He doesn't make mistakes. He's a competitor, one of those guys who has incredible heart and a lot of character. That's a good man right there and a good football player, too."

Hixon's Son Shows Progress

Gibbs said receivers coach Stan Hixon has been encouraged by the progress made by his son, Drew, who suffered a severe head injury in a college football game a few weeks ago. Gibbs said Drew Hixon began to flutter his eyes Monday and showed signs of coming out his coma. Stan Hixon remains in Tampa, where his son is being hospitalized.

Mark Brunell and Coach Joe Gibbs reassess during Monday night's game against Dallas. Gibbs called Brunell's showing a "heroic effort," considering his hamstring injury.