Washington Redskins coaches have scrutinized wide receiver Laveranues Coles during games and practices in case his pass routes aren't crisp because of a lingering ailment to the big toe on his right foot. They make sure that an uncharacteristic dropped pass is not because of a dislocated right middle finger.
The Redskins coaches realize "it would take an ax to get him [Coles] out of there" because of injuries, Coach Joe Gibbs said.
Coles, 26, is going through the most injury-riddled season of his NFL career, but the 5-foot-11 wideout is so sturdy that he isn't on Washington's long injury list. Coles leads the team with 27 catches but the numbers, including 316 receiving yards -- second-most on the team after Rod Gardner's 322 -- haven't been nearly enough to lift the offense.
"He's a warrior and he doesn't want to come out," wide receivers coach Stan Hixon said. "I have to watch him, and if I see his toe is hurting him I'll take him out for a while and let him rest up a little bit."
Coles's statistics are a stark contrast to his early flourish last season that resulted in 83 catches for 1,204 yards. While his desire to play through pain is admirable, his diminished numbers raise the question of whether Coles should mend a bit while the Redskins go with a healthier wide receiver.
Coles doesn't believe missing a game is an option if he can contribute.
"Just your presence can make a difference," Coles said, "because whenever you're a starter in this league, people build game plans around you, and if they don't know you're hurt, they still have to respect your presence on the field. Regardless of how you feel, you still have to be out there for your teammates."
Gardner said: "He never complains about it, so it's hard to tell how hurt he is. He still has nine other fingers. That's the way we look at it."
Bears' Jones Got a Look
Before the Redskins traded for running back Clinton Portis, the club reportedly tried to sign Chicago's Thomas Jones, a bruising runner who was a free agent in the offseason. Jones is 14th in the NFL with 361 rushing yards on an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Portis has the NFC's second-most rushing yards -- 422 -- but is averaging only 3.6 yards a carry. Portis is one of only nine NFL players with more yards from scrimmage than Jones, who has 534. Redskins vice president Vinny Cerrato yesterday played down the team's offseason interest in Jones. "We look at all the free agents," Cerrato said. "You can say that about a bunch of people." . . . The Redskins have no interest in safety Dexter Jackson, who was recently released by the Arizona Cardinals, Cerrato said. Jackson, the Super Bowl most valuable player when Tampa Bay won the NFL title two years ago, hasn't played since training camp because of a back injury.