The Washington Times - November 13, 2009, 01:47PM

For a change, the injury news was all good for the struggling Washington Redskins today.

Punter Hunter Smith, running back Ladell Betts and right tackle Stephon Heyer all practiced and are expected to be ready for Sunday’s game with the Denver Broncos.


Smith, who missed three of the past four games, tested his long-ailing right groin for the first time this week and felt good enough and kicked well enough that he’ll likely return Sunday.

However, coach Jim Zorn won’t make a final decision about Smith in Saturday, depending if the groin still feels good in the wake of Friday’s workout.

In that case, fill-in punter Sam Paulescu will be cut and the Redskins will add a player, perhaps practice squad safety Lendy Holmes. If not, Smith could go on injured reserve because Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis (concussion) and Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley (ankle) are holding roster spots although they’re unable to play.

“I punted well,” said Smith, who missed the Carolina and Kansas City games before returning against Philadelphia and re-injuring the groin, forcing him to miss last week’s game at Atlanta. “I felt good. [Waiting until Saturday] is a wise decision because you never know how it’s going to respond. We don’t want any more flareups.”

Betts, who’s set to replace Portis, took limited work on the left ankle that he sprained at Atlanta and which had sidelined him the previous two days, said he’s optimistic about being ready to face the Broncos. “I’m headed in the right direction,” Betts said. “Today gave me a little more optimism. I’m a lot better from after the game, probably about 75 percent.”

While Betts hasn’t started since 2006, he rushed for 861 yards in the final seven games that season when Portis was on injured reserve. And Betts gained 70 yards on 15 carries last week despite the injury.

“You get this moment of opportunity and all of a sudden I’m a little banged-up, but I can’t worry about that,” Betts said. “My body will let me know when it’s ready. I embrace the opportunity. I’ll to try to do something to help give this team a spark, get some wins, turn this thing around and give the fans something to cheer about again.”

If Betts can’t play, Washington would go with Rock Cartwright, whose last start was in 2003 and who has just 20 carries the last four seasons. “I just needed some time off,” said Heyer, who sprained a ligament on Oct. 26 against the Eagles and aggravated it against the Falcons. “In the cold and rain, it’s stiff and couldn’t move. I got some treatment. I’m moving better.”

Heyer has started every game this year, five at right tackle and four on the left side in place of Samuels. If Heyer is unable to go, the Redskins would replace him with D’Anthony Batiste, who hasn’t started a game since 2007 and has never started at tackle.

— David Elfin