Starting strong safety Matt Bowen suffered a season-ending knee injury Sunday night, leaving the Washington Redskins without one of their few experienced players in the secondary. Bowen had a good start to the season, relishing his blitzing role in assistant head coach Gregg Williams's aggressive defense, but caught his leg in the turf in the first half of Sunday's 17-10 loss to Baltimore at FedEx Field and will require season-ending surgery.
Bubba Tyer, the Redskins' director of sports medicine, said surgery will be scheduled shortly after the swelling in Bowen's right knee subsides, and he will soon be put on the injured reserve list.
Bowen, 27, tore his anterior cruciate ligament running downfield trying to cover a punt. He was not touched by another player but fell hard to the ground and stayed there for several minutes. Bowen, a fifth-year pro who has started every game since signing with Washington before the 2003 season, registered his first two career sacks in the first game of the season against Tampa Bay. He has not missed a game since 2001.
"I'm disappointed," Bowen said of his freakish injury, "but you go day by day and just try to get better, that's all I can do right now. I don't really have any other options. I'll just help out the younger guys . . . and try to help them out as much as possible and help these guys get some wins."
Tyer said the condition of the safety's knee should lend itself to a full recovery for the start of next season. "He's a great worker and he'll get a good repair," Tyer said. "He's got a nice clean knee and we expect there to be an uneventful recovery."
Coach Joe Gibbs has been pleased with Bowen's play and said he will be missed. "He has played extremely well for us," Gibbs said.
Safety Andre Lott, who missed the last two weeks with a hamstring injury, could be back for Sunday's game against Chicago. "We need him, so we hope we're able to get him back," Tyer said. Lott likely would start at safety alongside rookie Sean Taylor if he can play. Ryan Clark, who replaced Bowen after he suffered the injury, strained his ankle late in the Ravens game but will be able to play against the Bears, Tyer said.
Cornerback Shawn Springs received treatment for tendinitis on the outside of his ankle but will be able to play Sunday as well, Tyer said.
The Redskins are carrying two cornerbacks on the practice squad -- Garnell Wilds and Rufus Brown -- and one could be activated for Sunday's game. The team might also scan the waiver wire for another safety, but finding anyone with Bowen's ability at this point in the season is almost impossible. The Redskins have lost four straight games, and although the defense has been stout throughout, they now do not have a safety on the roster who has started even five NFL games.
There are injury concerns at other positions as well. Defensive lineman Joe Salave'a strained the back of his knee in Sunday's loss and is day-to-day. Linebacker LaVar Arrington, who missed the past three games after undergoing minor surgery on his knee right knee, ran for the first time since the operation yesterday, and "he did real well," Tyer said. However, Arrington's status for Sunday is still day-to-day and more will be known depending on how his knee responds to the workout.
Defensive end Phillip Daniels (torn groin) is doing agility drills and will see a specialist again this week before being cleared to return to practice; Daniels played with Chicago before signing with the Redskins in the offseason and hopes to be able to play Sunday.
Linebacker Mike Barrow, who has missed all season with a tendon problem in his left knee, will probably be listed as doubtful for Sunday's game, Tyer said, but is making steady progress. With the bye week upcoming, Barrow could return for Week 7 against Green Bay. Barrow said he tore a tendon in his knee and has visited various specialists around the country. Tyer said the Redskins maintain Barrow is suffering from tendinitis.
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Gibbs lost another video replay challenge Sunday and is now 1 for 5 when throwing the red flag. The last three challenges have not been overturned despite the team's considerable effort to hire former league officials to advise Gibbs on questionable calls. That staff is stationed in the press box and calls Gibbs about whether or not there is sufficient evidence to challenge a play. On Sunday the Redskins challenged quarterback Mark Brunell's fumble, believing Brunell was in the act of passing. "The general consensus was, this is close," Gibbs said. "When they say it's close, I figure we better do it." . . .
Opposing quarterbacks had thrown 92 straight times without being picked off by the Redskins before Baltimore's Kyle Boller was intercepted by Fred Smoot early in Sunday's game. Springs and safety Todd Franz also intercepted passes in the game. Washington's defense had forced only three turnovers this season before Sunday night, and doubled that figure in the loss. . . .
Even after allowing running back Jamal Lewis to rush for 116 yards Sunday, the Redskins still rank second in the NFL in rushing defense. There were concerns about the defensive line entering the season, and key run-stopping players such as Daniels and Arrington and Barrow have missed most of the season due to injuries, yet the collective of largely inexperienced players filling in have done a superb job.
"They don't have great personnel over there but Gregg Williams has overhauled the way they play," said one NFL personnel official.