- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Still limping noticeably, Washington Redskins return man Chad Morton skipped practice yesterday and refused to forecast his availability for Sunday’s game at Cleveland.

Morton was rocked on a third-quarter punt return in Monday’s night’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. The blow dealt him a concussion and a sprained knee, the latter of which has his status in doubt.

“I have no idea,” Morton said yesterday of returning to the field. “It’s just day-to-day, that’s all.”

Said coach Joe Gibbs: “That’s probably a tough one for us.”

If Morton can’t go, backup running back Ladell Betts could replace him on kickoffs, while wide receiver James Thrash could return punts, Gibbs said.

Betts led the team in kickoff returns as a rookie in 2002, averaging 24.6 yards and running one back 60 yards. But he didn’t see much action in that area last season. Thrash’s only season returning punts with any regularity was 2000 in Washington; he averaged 10.6 yards. With the Philadelphia Eagles last year, he had one punt return for 2 yards.

Morton was among seven Redskins who sat out practice. Also questionable are linebacker Mike Barrow (knee), safety Matt Bowen (groin) and safety Andre Lott (hamstring). Barrow has a tendon tear and might not be ready to make his Redskins debut. Bowen and Lott both missed practice but afterward expressed optimism about playing this weekend.

“The best thing I can say is that I feel better than yesterday,” Bowen said. “I think I’m gonna be fine. I really do.”

Linebacker Antonio Pierce (foot) also missed practice but should return today. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles, after playing through a dislocated finger Monday, impressed Gibbs again by practicing.

“Laveranues is unbelievable,” Gibbs said. “He’s not even supposed to be out there, and he’s out there catching balls with a big old fat finger.”

Linebacker LaVar Arrington (knee) and defensive end Phillip Daniels (groin) are out, as expected. Quarterback Mark Brunell, whose hamstring suffered no setbacks Monday, is considered basically healthy.

No flag?

A day after the NFL conceded error on a pair of calls in the Cowboys game, wide receiver Rod Gardner wondered why Dallas safety Roy Williams didn’t draw a flag on the game’s final play.

Gardner caught a 46-yard pass on the play but couldn’t get out of bounds, permitting time to expire. However, Williams launched into the air and appeared to make helmet-to-helmet contact with Gardner. A flag would have given Washington a chance to kick about a 24-yard field goal to send the game to overtime.

Asked about the no-call, Gardner said there “had to be” a penalty.

“I didn’t think about it on the field, but once you look at the tape, he went head-to-head,” Gardner said. “I wish they would have called it 15 yards.”

A victim of the second of the NFL’s acknowledged bad calls, in which cornerback Terence Newman got away with potential pass-interference in the end zone, Gardner took no satisfaction in the NFL’s private admission to the Redskins.

“After the fact, it doesn’t even matter,” Gardner said. “Even if they called and apologized. Everybody saw it. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see what happened.”

Goal-line trouble

Gibbs took responsibility for Washington’s inability to punch in the ball from the 1 at the end of the first half. The Redskins ran a quarterback sneak on first down, tried running back Clinton Portis on second down and finally threw incomplete on third down.

If the Redskins had passed on second down, they would have scored or thrown incomplete, the latter of which would have stopped the clock and preserved some run-pass suspense on third down. By running on second down and using the final timeout, Gibbs had to pass on third down.

“I probably hurt us with what I decided to go with there,” Gibbs said, citing his run-first philosophy. “I was kind of stubborn with what I thought would work.”

However, Gibbs just laughed when told that commentator John Madden said Washington should have passed on second down.

“I’ve been up where John is,” Gibbs said. “That’s a long ways up there. I was on the sideline.”

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