Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, perhaps the MVP of Washington's stingy defense, suffered a hip flexor that forced him to miss the second half of yesterday's 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. He is scheduled to take an MRI exam today to gauge the extent of the injury.
Griffin slipped late in the second quarter when he was double-teamed by Cincinnati offensive linemen; the 6-foot-3, 300-pound tackle was slow to get up but walked off the field. But in an ominous sign, Griffin wasn't on the sideline when the Redskins came out for the second half.
"This is the first time something like this has really happened," said Griffin, who added that the worst injury of his NFL career was an ankle ailment that made him miss two weeks with the New York Giants. "I didn't really decide not to come out -- the trainers did. But my leg was too weak to go back."
Without Griffin -- who finished with four tackles -- the Redskins went with Jermaine Haley. The reserve had played sparingly this season -- he was inactive in last week's 13-10 victory over the Detroit Lions -- after starting five games last year. Haley finished without a tackle yesterday.
Griffin entered the game with a team-high four sacks plus 41 tackles (including 32 solo) to lead Washington's defensive linemen. On the first day of free agency, March 3, Griffin signed a seven-year, $31 million deal, which included an $8.3 million bonus. Because Griffin was tagged as an underachiever -- a physically gifted player who regressed after a promising rookie season -- the price was considered by many around the NFL as exorbitant.
But Griffin has had a Pro Bowl-caliber season, helping the Redskins enter the game with the league's top-ranked defense: third overall against the run and fifth against the pass. Griffin credited improved technique learned from de facto line coach Greg Blache as the main reason for his improvement. . . .
Linebacker Khary Campbell suffered a left knee injury on the opening kickoff. Coach Joe Gibbs said that Campbell will likely undergo season-ending surgery. Without Campbell, who has performed well on special teams, Washington has only one healthy linebacker in reserve: Brandon Barnes. LaVar Arrington (bone bruise) is expected to be out at least two more weeks; Mike Barrow still hasn't made his Redskins debut because of acute tendinitis in his left knee.
Bengals wide receivers coach Hue Jackson shook hands with a few members of the Redskins outside the locker room after the game. Although the Redskins and Bengals haven't played each other since 1991, the teams are familiar with each other because of myriad ties. Marvin Lewis was Washington's defensive coordinator in 2002 before becoming head coach of the Bengals last season. Since then, Lewis has brought in several former Redskins assistants and players.
Last year, Lewis hired Rick Hundley, who had been his linebackers coach in Washington, to become Cincinnati's defensive line coach. Jackson wasn't retained by Gibbs after being offensive coordinator under Steve Spurrier in 2003, and Lewis brought Jackson to Cincinnati this year. The Bengals also hired Chip Morton as strength and conditioning coach, the same position he held with Washington in 2002.
However, the deepest influence of former Redskins comes from seven players: Cornerback Rashad Bauman, who was drafted by Washington in 2002, was signed after being released by the Redskins before the season. (Bauman didn't play yesterday because of an Achilles' tendon injury.) Running back Kenny Watson, who backs up tailback Rudi Johnson and returns kicks, was signed by Cincinnati in 2002 after being released. Wideout Cliff Russell was picked up by the Bengals after the Redskins released him on Aug. 31; Russell spent his rookie season in 2002 on Washington's injured reserve with a knee injury. Other Bengals who played for Washington in 2002 are defensive lineman Carl Powell, pass-rushing specialist LaDairis Jackson, center Larry Moore, guard Alex Sulfsted, safety Ricoh Joseph and defensive tackle Greg Scott.
Troubles at Home
Yesterday's outcome means that Gibbs has lost four straight home games for the first time in his NFL career. After the Redskins won their season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Washington lost three straight to enter the game. The Redskins have lost seven of their past eight home games dating from last season. . . .
Wideout Darnerien McCants was active for only the second time this season, and played for the first time. He got in with five minutes left in the third quarter, and finished with two catches for 46 yards, including a team-best 27-yarder. McCants being active was a slight surprise because the third-year veteran appeared as if he would languish on the inactive list because of Taylor Jacobs's promotion to the number three wideout and James Thrash's role as lead punt returner. But after the game, Gibbs indicated that McCants would get more of an opportunity to play. Last year, McCants tied Laveranues Coles with a team-high six touchdown catches, then signed a three-year, $4.5 million contract. . . .
Tailback Clinton Portis had only eight carries in the first half and finished with 17 carries for 81 yards. The Redskins have won each time Portis has rushed for at least 100 yards. Portis's 17 carries tied a season low, matching his workload in a 28-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers two weeks ago. "You get down 17-0 and your whole game plan changes," said Portis. "I don't think you get frustrated with not having the ball, you get frustrated with losing. Not having the ball don't do that. If you're losing it don't matter who got the ball, everybody wants to make plays. If I don't touch the ball and we win, that's great." . . .
Yesterday was the first time this season that fans were able to walk to FedEx Field. And spectators heeded the team's urgings to arrive early and minimize delays caused by pedestrian congestion. Last month, Prince George's County reversed public safety recommendations that sidewalks be closed leading to the stadium. Extra police were present to keep fans on the sidewalks and crosswalks, and spectators were charged $15 for parking at Landover Mall. . . .
Wideout Rod Gardner didn't wait long to make a catch after his 55-game streak with at least one reception was snapped in last week's 13-10 victory over the Chicago Bears. On Washington's second drive, Gardner caught a six-yard pass on second and 10 from the Redskins 47-yard line. Gardner made only one more catch, finishing with two for 18 yards. . . . Bengals cornerback Tory James increased his league lead in interceptions to six when he picked off Patrick Ramsey early in the third quarter.