Lennie Friedman paid the price for the injuries to receivers David Patten and James Thrash. The Washington Redskins cut the offensive lineman yesterday to make room for receiver/return specialist Antonio Brown.
Friedman, a seven-year veteran who started 10 games at center over the previous two seasons, was deemed expendable even though he had been listed as active each week. Cory Raymer, meanwhile, had been listed as inactive the last three weeks and did not play in the first four games this season. Raymer started the final 14 games of 2004.
The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Brown ran 66 yards on his lone kickoff return and 39 yards on one of his 10 punt returns after being signed last Nov. 11. However, he had a poor preseason and was cut after he lost a fumble that set up Chicago's only score in the season opener.
"I didn't have any hard feelings," Brown said. "I congratulated the coaches for giving me the opportunity, and if the opportunity presented itself again, I was going to be ready."
Brown, whose previous NFL experience came with Buffalo in 2003 under current Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith, hadn't worked out for any other team in the 10 weeks he was out of football.
Brown said he loves Smith's "hit it and go" mentality.
Smith jokingly responded, "He loves my system. I'm the only guy giving him work. ... We're happy to have him back. I like the guy and trust the guy."
The Redskins were in desperate need of a return man after Thrash was sidelined because of a pulled hamstring and with Ladell Betts almost certain to miss a second straight game because of a sprained knee.
Santana Moss returned punts after Thrash went down Sunday against Oakland, but the Redskins would rather not use their top receiver regularly in that role. Rookie Nehemiah Broughton and Rich Parson, who had been activated from the practice squad two days earlier, returned kickoffs in the absence of Betts and Thrash against the Raiders.
Receiver Carl Kearney was signed to the practice squad yesterday, leaving Parson out of work.
Brown and Broughton, who has returned one kickoff for 5 yards, likely will replace Thrash and Betts as the kickoff return duo Sunday against San Diego. Betts is averaging 25.7 yards -- third best in the NFC -- including a 94-yard touchdown Nov. 13 at Tampa Bay. Thrash is averaging 24.3 yards.
Not only are the NFL's top coverage units minus Thrash, who's adept at downing punts, but the menacing 6-3, 278-pound Mike Sellers, who leads the special teams in tackles, also is absent. The Redskins rank first on kickoff coverage and fifth on punt coverage.
"It's hard to lose those guys, but the rest of us have to step up," said Khary Campbell, who along with Rock Cartwright is one of two healthy Redskins who play on all four return and coverage units. "Mike brings that intimidation factor. A lot of teams don't want to wedge it up the middle because he's coming hard. And they don't want to do a lot of trickery like fake reverses because James is always there to sniff that out."
Sellers suffered a hairline fracture of a rib on an illegal block by Oakland's Isaiah Ekejiuba. Sellers got flagged when he retaliated on the next special teams play.
"It scared the heck out of me," Sellers said of the pain. "At one point, I couldn't even breathe. I'm sore. ... He wasn't man enough to hit me straight up, so he hit me from behind. I let my anger get the best of me. I just snapped. I'm not proud of it. I wanted to get out there and get him, but I really didn't want to get a penalty."
Sellers, Thrash and Betts were joined on the sideline yesterday by safeties Sean Taylor (ankle) and Ryan Clark (knee), linebacker LaVar Arrington (thigh) and offensive tackle Chris Samuels (knee). The latter four all plan on playing Sunday. Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, whose strained hip flexor had kept him out since the second snap of the Oct. 30 loss at Giants Stadium, took part in individual drills and is questionable. Quarterback Mark Brunell was limited because of an ailing groin.