- The Washington Times - Friday, November 3, 2000

Brad Johnson is out and perhaps for awhile.

The Washington Redskins' quarterback will miss Sunday's game at Arizona because of his sprained left knee, coach Norv Turner said yesterday, and high-profile backup Jeff George will play in Johnson's place.

Team officials had hoped Johnson would play, but they now say they expect him to miss 2-4 weeks meaning he might not play Nov. 20 at St. Louis following next week's open date.

"I'm not going to guess [when he'll return]," Turner said. "I would like him to dress [Sunday], but he may not even be able to do that. If we got him to dress and be an emergency third [quarterback], that would probably be the best we can hope for."

George returned to practice after missing Wednesday for the birth of his son, Jayden Scott George. However, Jayden experienced some breathing problems yesterday, and George was forced to leave Redskin Park immediately after practice.

There initially was some concern that George would miss practice, but he got a call before the workout saying the infant was doing better. George is expected to practice today.

"From a football standpoint, he practiced and was in on all the meetings," Turner said. "He had a very good practice today. He's into it. He has been into it all along. I expect him to play well."

George took all the practice snaps. Rookie Todd Husak, who ran the offense Wednesday, returned to the scout team and will be the backup Sunday. The Redskins must determine an emergency option (which used to be Brian Mitchell) if Johnson cannot suit up, but they are not considering signing a quarterback.

"I have been in situations where you went with two [quarterbacks on game day]," Turner said. "I don't think that's a problem."

Johnson was injured in the fourth quarter of Monday's 27-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans. He was able to remain in the game because the Redskins mostly were using a shotgun formation at that point. He suffered a second-degree MCL sprain, meaning the ligament is partially torn.

This scenario is precisely why the Redskins signed George to a four-year, $18.25 million contract in the offseason. Johnson played a full 16-game season in 1999 for the first time in his career after enduring a series of injuries during his years with the Minnesota Vikings (1992-98).

"I don't think you're going to see a dropoff with Jeff," tight end Stephen Alexander said. "He has been here, he knows the system, he knows what's going on. That's the reason they brought him here. He's a good backup, and I don't think many teams have that, a quality backup quarterback."

George, 32, was the NFL's third-rated passer as a Viking in 1999, leading Minnesota to a 8-2 record after Randall Cunningham was injured. His deep spiral is considered one of the best in the game, but attitude problems early in his career have led him to play for five teams in 10 seasons.

George has maintained a healthy outlook since signing with Washington, and the Redskins feel extremely confident in his ability to perform, even though he has taken just 10 percent of the practice snaps since training camp.

"You've got a guy who's a veteran of a lot of games, a playoff quarterback," Turner said. "I expect us to play well on offense, I expect us to play well in the game and I expect Jeff to play well."

The Redskins do not believe George will be distracted Sunday, even though he might be having difficulty concentrating on football this week.

"[Jayden's health] is going to be heavy on his mind, but we know what to expect from Jeff," wide receiver Albert Connell said. "He's the type that doesn't let too many things get to him. He's going to go out and play."

The offensive scheme will not be altered to accommodate George, but receivers are planning to be more open-minded about the throws that might be coming their way. While Johnson is considered a safe, solid decision-maker, George has been known to beat good defenses with perfect throws.

"You had better have your eyes alert at all times when Jeff is in there," wide receiver Irving Fryar said. "He has been known to throw it to decoys."

George's play will give the Redskins an idea of what to expect next season. Johnson, 32, has broken off negotiations for a contract extension and will become a free agent March 2 if Washington does not name him the franchise player. Because such a move would choke the salary cap, George is likely to be the 2001 starter.

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