Most NFL players gladly welcome the bye week to rest and rejuvenate their bodies no matter when it comes, and the Washington Redskins are no exception. The Redskins (2-4) take a renewed confidence into the bye after ending a four-game losing streak in Chicago on Sunday, and have plenty of players badly in need of some time off.
"It's perfect for us," Coach Joe Gibbs said of the timing of the bye. "We're beat up right now."
When Washington returns to FedEx Field to host Green Bay on Oct. 31, the defense could get a boost from the return of stalwart linebackers LaVar Arrington (knee surgery) and Mike Barrow (knee tendinitis), and starting defensive end Phillip Daniels (torn groin). All three have been out all month with their injuries -- Barrow has yet to appear in a preseason or regular season game since signing with the Redskins in the offseason -- and the coaches and medical staff are optimistic that they could all be cleared to play in the next game, although it would seem that Barrow would not start given his prolonged absence and the strong play of Antonio Pierce at middle linebacker.
Safety Andre Lott, who has started a few games this season, should be over his hamstring problem to face the Packers. Defensive linemen Joe Salave'a (calf) and Ron Warner (ankle) dressed for Sunday's game but played sparingly; both could be ready for routine duty coming out of the bye. Cornerback Fred Smoot suffered a pinched nerve in one shoulder Sunday and a strained rotator cuff in the other, but made a key tackle late in the game and he is confident that the additional time off is all he will need to get healthy.
"The bye week is coming," Smoot said. "I think I can come back good and healthy. I'm going [home] to Mississippi and I'll get my mom to put a little red clay on it for me."
Gibbs also praised the determination of running back Clinton Portis (neck), and defensive linemen Renaldo Wynn (hamstring) and Cornelius Griffin (shoulder), who all played despite pain that would keep many players out. "We had a number of guys, really heroic type deals where they were nicked up," Gibbs said.
Offensive linemen Chris Samuels (ankle), Ray Brown (hamstring) and Kenyatta Jones (ankle) have been nursing injuries for weeks and could use a break, as could kick returner Chad Morton, whose knee has been a problem this month. Kicker John Hall missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury but is expected to be ready for the next game.
Gibbs brought the players in for their usual Monday meetings and workouts, and the team will practice lightly today and tomorrow before being given Thursday through Sunday off. They will report back to Redskins Park next Monday.
Carrying the Load
Portis's 36 carries Sunday were two shy of his career record and continued what has been the NFL's heaviest workload this season. Portis has rushed 153 times this season, 21 more carries -- the rough equivalent of the average game -- than anyone else in the league (Curtis Martin is second with 132).
Portis, a smaller back at 5 feet 11 and 207 pounds, is on pace for 408 carries this season; he never has run more than 290 times in a season but says the demands of his position -- which calls for more inside, pounding runs than he was used to in two 1,500-yard seasons with Denver -- are not a concern.
"I'm going to go out and play the way I do all the time," Portis said. "I really don't get into how many carries I got. I'm going to go out and play."
Said Gibbs: "We tried to tell Clinton, if at any point he's tired at all, we want him out of there. . . . Keep yourself fresh."
Portis leads the NFC with 593 rushing yards. His 171 yards were the 11th-most ever gained by a Redskins runner and the most in nearly five years.
After Sunday's performance, Washington's defense ranks second overall, third against the run and fourth against the pass.
"I can't brag on our defense enough," Gibbs said. . . .
H-back Mike Sellers is starting to take a more prominent role with the team to aid the running game. After being used primarily on heavy packages as a blocker at the end of the line, Sellers was split out wide a few times Sunday and often acted as a fullback for Portis, taking on the first tackler and opening some holes for the runner to gain vital inside yards.
"We're trying to find a nice [place] for me where I fit in in this offense," said Sellers who was signed as a free agent after spending two seasons in the Canadian Football League. "And coming out of the backfield is what I've done the best so far." . . .
Gibbs is hoping the return game will improve after the bye, with Morton unable to break a long return yet this season. "We'd like to hit some things there, and we haven't," Gibbs said.