Redskins WR Pierre Garcon might not be able to return after the bye week. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan still doesn’t know if he will have his leading wide receiver, Pierre Garcon, for the stretch run of the season. But the coach is encouraged by the prospect of getting projected starting safety Brandon Meriweather on the field for the first time this year.

 Garcon – the team’s biggest free agent signing of the spring – has missed six games with a torn tendon in the second toe of his right foot. The receiver suffered it early in the season opener,  while running for an 88-yard touchdown.

Garcon saw foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson on Oct. 24, and was holding out hope that he could avoid surgery by resting his toe completely so the tendon could heal on its own. Shanahan and Garcon both hoped the receiver could return at full strength shortly after this week’s bye.

 But as of last week, Garcon still walked with a noticeable limp and hadn’t tried to practice.

 Asked how optimistic he was about Garcon’s return, Shanahan said on Monday, “I really don’t know. I can’t tell you. I feel a little bit better about Brandon than I do Pierre right now. For some reason, it’s one of those freak injuries. You can’t understand why, doctors can’t explain it, but it hurts – enough that he can’t push off and get to where he was before. It’s discouraging and disheartening, but he’s dealing with it, and I know one thing: when he can play, he’ll play.”

Meriweather also was signed as a free agent this offseason, and the Redskins hoped that he could recapture the two-time Pro Bowl form he showed for New England from 2009 to 2010.

But Meriweather strained his MCL and PCL during the second preseason game, and missed the next two while healing. He re-injured the same knee during a practice before   the season opener.

Meriweather was poised to make his season debut in Week 4 at Tampa, but collided with receiver Aldrick Robinson during pre-game warm-ups, and hurt the same knee yet again. The day after the game, Shanahan said doctors thought Meriweather would be able to return in about four weeks. Meriweather was only able to practice on a limited basis this past week, however, and missed a fifth week.