Santana Moss, the only healthy proven wide receiver on the Washington Redskins' roster and the focal point of the passing offense, missed yesterday's practice with a hamstring injury, but coaches and athletic trainers expect he will play Sunday against the Cardinals in Arizona.
Moss, who is fourth in the NFL with 1,111 receiving yards, said he decided not to practice with the team Wednesday when he felt discomfort in his hamstring, and, with a history of such injuries, did not want to risk further problems.
"I sat down because I know I could have made it worse," Moss said. "It was my call. I've been around long enough to know when something is bothering me, you don't want to push it. As much as I'd like to be out there doing what I do, there's no sense trying to push through it now, when you really need to push through it when it comes to game time. I just didn't feel right, and the coaches I have, they understand that."
The Redskins (6-6) continued to list Moss as probable for Sunday. Former Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington (thigh), who also missed practice again, remains questionable and likely will not play unless he practices today, according to Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense. Having Moss, who was acquired from the New York Jets for wide receiver Laveranues Coles in the offseason, healthy is critical to Washington's playoff hopes with the team likely needing to win its final four games to qualify for the postseason.
Coach Joe Gibbs said Moss told him he felt much better yesterday, but his practice duties today could be limited as a precaution. "We'll probably go easy with him [today]," Gibbs said. Receivers coach Stan Hixon said Moss remains very much in Sunday's game plan. "Hopefully he plays the whole game, but he'll be out there at the start of the game," Hixon said. "We've got Antonio Brown running some of his routes while Santana is out of practice, but we expect him to play."
The Redskins do not expect veteran receiver James Thrash (hamstring) to be able to play , and Moss is by far the best of a thin receiving corps. Taylor Jacobs, a third-year player who has been starting since David Patten underwent season-ending knee surgery, has yet to emerge in the NFL, with just 10 catches for 93 yards this season. The No. 3 receiver, Jimmy Farris, was out of football for much of this season and has one catch for 18 yards in 2005, and the fourth receiver, Antonio Brown, is primarily a return specialist and is rarely used in offensive formations.
Should Moss miss the game, or be bothered by the injury throughout it, H-back Chris Cooley would likely assume an even bigger role against the Cardinals, who rank 28th in the NFL in pass defense. Moss has nearly 500 more receiving yards than anyone else on the team, is the Redskins' sole legitimate deep threat and a big reason why the club's passing game has improved since last season.
"We talked all offseason about getting the ball downfield and being explosive," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "That was one of the things that was lacking last year. This year we've been able to get the ball downfield, which is good. Some big plays have helped us, and Santana has been a huge part of that."
Moss has missed only two games the last four seasons but has been hampered by hamstring problems in the past. He receives regular massages and is careful not to aggravate the area. "That's something I learned to do when I was up there in New York," he said.
Redskins Notes: Offensive linemen Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen, defensive lineman Cornelius Griffin, safety Ryan Clark and running back Ladell Betts returned to practice yesterday and are expected to play. Defensive tackle Joe Salave'a did not and remains unlikely to play.