Coach Joe Gibbs met with many of the Washington Redskins' veterans Monday to take the team's temperature after three straight tough losses, but all involved maintain the exchange of ideas alone will not generate victories. Gibbs and the players came away enthused that there are no signs of dissent, and hope to pull out of a 2-6 rut when they play Sunday at St. Louis.
"We're not pointing fingers, and it's easy to do," said offensive lineman Ray Brown, a 20-year veteran who cautioned not to put too much emphasis on the meeting. "Just the way we played, you'd think guys might blame the offense, or we might blame the defense, but we're in there together, and guys have really kept a tight-knit group together."
Gibbs, who said he meets with team leaders "when there's a reason for it," has praised his club's professionalism throughout another difficult season. "I think we've got a great group of guys," he said.
Still, only San Francisco (2-9), Houston (1-10) and the New York Jets (2-9) have a worse record than the Redskins in the last eight games, and three of the league's recent doormats -- Detroit (4-7), Cleveland (4-7) and Arizona (3-8) -- have better records than Washington in the last eight games. The Lions, for instance, fired their coach Monday, indicating their state of disarray, while the Browns and Cardinals both have first-year coaches.
Washington's 2-6 mark also ties a handful of clubs with whom the team would rather not be associated. Miami (4-7), New Orleans (3-8), Tennessee (3-8), Green Bay (2-9) and Baltimore (3-8) have won just two of their last eight games. Of that entire group of teams, only the Redskins (5-6) have even a modicum of playoff possibility, and that is because of their 3-0 start.
"To get in the postseason would probably take five straight wins," quarterback Mark Brunell said.
Punting Poses a Problem
Lately the punting game has been a cause for concern. Washington ranks 30th of 32 teams in the NFL in gross punting average and 20th in net punting average, losing the field-position battle nearly each week.
Gibbs has called the punting "inconsistent" lately, but the result most weeks has been nearly the same. Derrick Frost, who was cut by Cleveland after last season, had a net of 34.3 yards per punt against San Diego, and 34 against Oakland. His net has topped 40 yards in just one of his eight games, and he no longer continues to get the early fortuitous rolls on punts that are not fielded.
"The past two weeks I just haven't played well," Frost said, "and I need to step it up. I just need to attack the ball more and put a little bit more into it. When I'm out there I need to gear up a little bit more. I need to increase my intensity a little bit."
Injuries Are Plentiful
The Redskins held offensive lineman Chris Samuels (knee) and defensive linemen Renaldo Wynn (rest) and Cornelius Griffin (hip) out of practice, but all will play Sunday. H-back Mike Sellers (ribs) returned to some portions of practice and was listed as questionable, while safety Sean Taylor (ankle) practiced and is probable. Wide receiver James Thrash (hamstring; doubtful), running back Ladell Betts (knee; questionable) and defensive lineman Joe Salave'a (foot; doubtful) are highly unlikely to play Sunday. . . . St. Louis interim coach Joe Vitt has close ties to this region. He attended Towson, spends considerable time in Baltimore and plans to retire in Ocean City, where he has a home. "Everything that I have in my life," Vitt said during a conference call, "from football to my family, started at Towson. It was really just a great experience." . . .
Rams rookie tackle Alex Barron is scheduled to undergo thumb surgery today and the team could be without both starting tackles Sunday. Orlando Pace left last Sunday's comeback win over Houston because of hip and hamstring injuries, although an MRI exam Monday reportedly showed no serious damage.
Staff writer Mark Maske contributed to this report.