- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 11, 2011

In the minutes leading up to the Redskins' kickoff against the New England Patriots on Sunday, right tackle Jammal Brown’s day ended before it even began.

A re-aggravated groin injury suffered during pregame warm-ups sent him hobbling into the locker room and prompted yet another realignment of Washington’s merry-go-round offensive line before its 34-27 loss.

Brown suffered the injury in the end zone during pulling drills, which involve a quick lateral movement to mimic running around the down block of an adjacent offensive lineman.

“I went to pull and my left leg slid with the dirt as I was pushing off, almost doing the splits coming out,” Brown said. “So I just kind of knew right away from pulling my groin a couple weeks ago.”

Indeed, it was the same right groin injury that kept Brown sidelined for the Nov. 13 loss at Miami. Eight-year pro Sean Locklear replaced Brown for that game, but Trent Williams’ season-ending suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy led to a vacancy at left tackle that ultimately was filled by Locklear and rookie Willie Smith against the Patriots. Locklear got the start, but the two alternated series in the early going before Smith took over for the majority of the game.

Brown’s substitute for Sunday’s game was Tyler Polumbus, a four-year veteran whose only other start since being signed by the Redskins last month came against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11. Polumbus, whose start at right guard Sunday represented a shift from his more natural left guard position, filled in for Maurice Hurt at left guard against the Cowboys.

According to Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, Polumbus received no practice time this past week. That made his solid performance against the Patriots all the more impressive.

“I certainly didn’t expect [Brown] to get hurt in pre-game warm-ups, but any chance I get to play I’m excited,” Polumbus said. “I hope he has a quick recovery, but any time I get a chance to go in there, I have fun.”

Playing in his first NFL game, Smith received a rude awakening on the third snap of the Redskins' second drive. Facing third and 9 from the Redskins’ 5-yard-line, Smith succumbed to the bull rush of former Redskins defensive lineman Andre Carter, who leveled quarterback Rex Grossman and forced a fumble that was recovered by Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork for the game’s first touchdown.

“I got in a good set, got in a good position on him,” Smith said. “He started to bull [rush] and I tried to lean on him to stop the bull, and when I leaned he took advantage of that and pulled my arm and swung over, and that’s how he got there.”

Despite the setback, Redskins coaches maintained faith in the 25-year-old rookie. Smith played the entire fourth series, an eight-play, 84-yard drive that culminated in a 9-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney.

“We thought we could take a little pressure off him not throwing him in right away starting the game in case we had a few mistakes, so we alternated series,” Shanahan said. “When Willie started playing well we kept him in there, and I think he did a good job.”

Sunday’s starting lineup in the trenches was the Redskins’ sixth different combination this season, a carousel that Brown claimed has little effect on the unit’s collective mentality.

“We’re a tight-knit group, so I don’t think it bothers us as much as it would other teams just because of our camaraderie and stuff,” said Brown, who expects to heal from his groin injury this week. “We’ll be all right.”