Johnson, 11 others released

In the wake of an 0-3 start punctuated by Saturday’s 41-0 loss at New England, the Washington Redskins didn’t bother waiting until today’s deadline to cut 12 players to reach the NFL’s maximum roster size.

Tight end Robert Johnson, who got into one game last year, was the only one of the 12 who had played for Washington. The Redskins, like Johnson’s three previous employers, decided injuries trumped the potential of his 6-foot-6, 278-pound body. Johnson missed the preseason opener at Cincinnati after spraining an ankle in the Aug. 5 scrimmage with Baltimore and missed the Patriots’ game after reinjuring the ankle against the New York Jets on Aug. 19.

Safety Antuan Edwards, who had played on four teams in the previous seven seasons before signing with Washington on Aug. 16, also was cut, along with former Chicago and Atlanta defensive end Karon Riley.

Seventh-round draft choice Kevin Simon, a linebacker from Tennessee who never returned after injuring a hamstring against the Ravens, headed the list of nine players without regular season experience who were released. Also waived were former practice squad linemen Jon Alston and Jim Jones, quarterback Casey Bramlet, kicker Tyler Jones, punter David Lonie, defensive tackle Chris Mineo, tight end Calen Powell and cornerback Aric Williams.

The moves left the Redskins with 76 players (French linebacker Phillip Gardent is exempt because he’s guaranteed a practice squad spot). Washington needs to reach the regular season limit of 53 on Saturday. Eight young players can then join Gardent on the practice squad.

Johnson’s exit is great news for rookie free agent tight end Buck Ortega, who has 87 yards and one of Washington’s two touchdowns on five catches in preseason. Ortega is the only tight end behind starter Chris Cooley and veteran backup Christian Fauria. Edwards’ departure leaves sixth-rounder Reed Doughty with the edge on practice squad holdover Curry Burns to be the fourth safety behind Sean Taylor, Adam Archuleta and veteran reserve Pierson Prioleau.

The release of Riley was somewhat surprising considering he had two sacks against the Bengals and because fellow ends Phillip Daniels, Renaldo Wynn and Demetric Evans were all absent. However, at 256 pounds, Riley couldn’t hold up against 300-plus pound blockers.

Daniels participated in individual drills for the first time since spraining his back two weeks ago and could be cleared to return to contact today. Evans also could return after having wisdom teeth removed. Daniels was joined in the individual work by fellow starter Cornelius Griffin, the defensive tackle sidelined since spraining his right knee against the Jets. Neither is expected to play in Thursday’s preseason finale with Baltimore. Nor will Wynn even though the sprained ankle he suffered against the Patriots is much-improved.

Starting fullback Mike Sellers was ill, and backup linebacker Khary Campbell was out with a bruised knee. The good news was that reserve offensive tackle Jim Molinaro was back 20 days after having arthroscopic knee surgery. Molinaro said he will play Thursday.

Cornerback Shawn Springs tossed a football before practice 13 days after having abdominal surgery, while running back Clinton Portis (partially dislocated shoulder) sprinted between practice fields. Reserve linebacker Robert McCune (hamstring) remained sidelined. Assistant coach Don Breaux returned to the field after being absent since undergoing hernia surgery Aug. 23.

Special moves

With young punter Derrick Frost struggling, the Redskins are hoping to bring in veteran Toby Gowin for a workout today. Gowin, 31, averaged 41.2 yards in eight seasons with three teams before being out of the NFL last year. Gowin was cut by Jacksonville on Aug. 14.

“The ball’s in my court,” said Frost, still plagued by the inconsistency that troubled him last year. “I just need to play well. If I do, I’ll be here. If I don’t, I probably won’t.” …

Jones’ release ensures that John Hall will be Washington’s kicker for the fourth straight year, baring an attractive veteran being cut by another team.

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