The Washington Redskins signed wide receiver Antonio Brown yesterday as a possible replacement for kick returner Chad Morton, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday's 28-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers. Brown has experience as a kickoff and punt returner but the Redskins haven't decided whether he will be in uniform for Sunday's game at Detroit.
Last year, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Brown made the Buffalo Bills' squad after making significant contributions to special teams during the preseason. Playing in every regular season game, Brown returned 48 kickoffs for 1,046 yards, averaging 21.7 yards per return, and 25 punts for 111 yards, averaging 4.4.
Danny Smith, Washington's special teams coach, was with Buffalo the previous three seasons under then-head coach Gregg Williams, now the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense. Before joining the Bills, Brown, who attended West Virginia, played with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League in 2002.
Brown is the second player added to Washington's active roster this week. The Redskins on Tuesday signed safety Jason Doering -- released by the New York Giants during the preseason -- to replace Andre Lott, who also suffered a season ending injury Sunday.
"We got two guys there we knew something about," said Coach Joe Gibbs, alluding to defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker, who was on the Giants staff the previous two years. "We think they both can make a real contribution. Antonio is very fast and has a good Buffalo background and we knew a lot about him. Danny has coached him, and had him a full 16 games last year. We'll see how we work our final roster moves right now, depending on how we feel like our health will be, and we'll see if we're able to get him up. We're trying to figure out the roster right now."
James Thrash, Morton's backup for punt returns, is expected to become Washington's lead punt returner. On five punts, Thrash is averaging 7.6 yards, which was better than Morton's 6.2 average. Ladell Betts, Morton's backup on kick returns, was Washington's main kick returner in 2002, averaging 24.6 yards on 28 kick returns. But the Redskins haven't ruled out making Brown the lead kick returner. Morton and Lott are each expected to undergo surgery in the next several days.
More Tests for Arrington
LaVar Arrington is scheduled to take a three-day trip to visit James Andrews, a Birmingham-based doctor, to have his knee further examined and treated, Gibbs said yesterday. Arrington is expected to miss four more games after an MRI exam on Tuesday revealed a bone bruise on the top of his right knee. Arrington hasn't played since the Redskins lost to the Giants in Week 2. "Our biggest thing right now with him is just to make sure he rests," Gibbs said.
Four players were ruled out for Sunday's game against the Lions when the Redskins released their injury report. None was a surprise: Arrington, Lott, Morton and kicker John Hall. Linebacker Mike Barrow (knee) is listed as questionable. Barrow, who has not played all season because of a tendon problem in his knee, said yesterday that he is fine running straight ahead but isn't as comfortable cutting. Wide receiver Rod Gardner sat out practice, and is listed as probable with a hip ailment. Gardner said he hurt his back Sunday making a catch, and expects to be able to practice.
A Rebuilding Year?
Because of Washington's 2-5 record, cornerback Fred Smoot said he considers this year a rebuilding season. But Gibbs said yesterday: "I kind of look at it from week to week. I just want to get a win. I don't get focused on next year. I am thinking, as you analyze everything going on, you wonder why you would go through some of the things you're going through."