Washington Football Team free safety Deshazor Everett underwent pectoral surgery Wednesday, probably ending his season. The team placed him on injured reserve, which will force him to miss at least the final three regular season games. The 28-year-old was playing well before he left Sunday’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers with what was called a chest injury.

“We were at first keeping our fingers crossed and hoping we’d get positive news the day after the game,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “Then the news came back that it was not likely he’d be ready to go this week. Then the news came back that he’s going to go on IR. That’s a shame.”

Losing Everett is a significant blow. He became a steadying, physical presence on defense after replacing Troy Apke in Week 5, and he was enjoying one of the better seasons of his career with 31 tackles and four passes defended. He also formed a formidable tandem with rookie strong safety Kam Curl, and Curl credited Everett with helping him read the offense before the snap.

“I hated to see that,” Curl said of Everett’s injury, “but somebody has to step up.”

At free safety, Washington could go to third-year player Jeremy Reaves or back to Apke. Coach Ron Rivera said the team has worked with Apke on his angles, one of his major focal points since college, and that “he’s done a nice job.” Del Rio declined to name the starter during his news conference Thursday, though it’s notable that the team went to Reaves when Everett was injured Sunday.

In limited snaps this season, the 24-year-old from South Alabama has seemed to hold his own. In a way, Rivera sees Reaves as emblematic of the whole team.

“The more he plays, the more confident he gets,” the coach said. “That’s kind of the nice thing.”

After Curl, Reaves and Apke, Rivera said, the team’s fourth safety will be Cole Luke, a third-year pro who weeks ago was signed to a two-year contract off the practice squad. The group probably will be tested early by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who throws one of the NFL’s best deep balls. Yet Rivera anticipates a smooth transition from Everett to Reaves or Apke because the group has changed so much throughout the season and the team has had the players practice in multiple safety spots.

“We work guys a lot in different spots, so guys are learning to work together and learning to communicate,” Rivera said. “That’s probably the biggest thing that has to happen. You’ve got to be able to communicate because if you don’t, you’re going to make mistakes. We’re trying to get it where it’s not just one guy talking. That way, if you lose that one guy, what are you going to do?”

Everett’s move to IR cleared a spot on the active roster for running back Lamar Miller. Washington signed the 29-year-old off the Chicago Bears’ practice squad Wednesday. Miller is now in the coronavirus protocol, which includes a six-day entry testing process. This means he won’t be able to join the active roster until Tuesday at the earliest.

On Thursday, Rivera said the Miller signing was not related to running back Antonio Gibson’s turf toe. He emphasized the team likes Javon Leake and Mike Warren, the two backs on the practice squad, and said he views Miller as “an insurance policy more so than anything else.” Last year, with the Houston Texans, Miller tore his ACL during the third preseason game and missed the rest of the year. This season, in one game with the Bears, Miller caught two passes for six yards.

“Lamar has played some quality football,” Rivera said. “He’s given some really good minutes. … We checked up on him and found out everybody thought he’s good to go. We’re looking forward to having a veteran guy give us some quality minutes available just in case.”

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