CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The way offensive starters have been dropping for the Washington Redskins, the remaining healthy members may want to consider encasing themselves in bubble wrap.
After three starters went down in last week's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles - including guard Kory Lichtensteiger being sidelined for the season - receiver Santana Moss and running back Tim Hightower left Sunday's loss to the Carolina Panthers because of injury and didn't return.
"Those are two big blows," tight end Logan Paulsen said.
Moss said he broke a bone in his left hand, cradling it under his sport coat after the game. He doesn't know how long he'll be sidelined.
A knee injury left Hightower on crutches with a bulky wrap on his left leg. The extent of the problem wasn't clear, but Hightower said X-rays were negative. An MRI is scheduled for Monday. Coach Mike Shanahan hoped Hightower didn't injure his anterior cruciate ligament.
"It's not excruciating pain, it's just uncomfortable," Hightower said. "I've never really been hurt so I don't know what stuff is supposed to feel like."
Moss didn't play in the second half, leaving quarterback John Beck without the sure-handed receiver who has pulled in 25 balls for 301 yards this season.
Hightower's injury interrupted his return from a shoulder problem and, at the time, looked serious. The running back didn't play in the Eagles game because of the shoulder and was limited the week before against the St. Louis Rams.
But Hightower got the start Sunday and quickly rolled up 88 yards on 17 carries as the Redskins established the run and took pressure off Beck. But 4 1/2 minutes into the third quarter, Hightower zipped up the middle for a 4-yard gain and fell to the ground in pain.
Two teammates had to help Hightower off the field after an attempt to hobble by himself petered out after a few yards.
"I'm very passionate about what I do," Hightower said. "You feel helpless and you feel you're not able to help your team. You're not able to do what you were brought here to do. It's a terrible feeling. I was a little frustrated. I was a little stubborn. But I'll be back."
Ryan Torain and Roy Helu replaced Hightower. But the Redskins ran only twice more the rest of the game, as Panthers quarterback Cam Newton took charge and Washington had to play catch-up.
But the painful, bandage-wrapped reality remained: Early in the second half, the Redskins were without two linemen, a tight end, a receiver and a running back. The offense from two weeks ago looked completely different, and that's before you start with Beck taking over at quarterback.
"I don't like missing nothing," Moss said. "At the end of the day, you don't know why it happened. But everything happens for a reason."
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