- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 2, 2000

Pessimism about Brad Johnson's health is increasing at Redskin Park.

The Washington Redskins' quarterback missed practice yesterday with a sprained left knee and is likely to remain out today. The outlook of Redskins coach Norv Turner took a decidedly dour turn after he had expressed confidence Tuesday that Johnson would play Sunday at Arizona.

"He does not look like he's moving around very well walking," Turner said. "I think he would have a hard time practicing tomorrow. I'm discouraged."

Trainer Bubba Tyer remained guarded, saying, "He's got a Grade II sprain. It's going to take a few days [to heal]."

Meanwhile, fatherhood added a twist to the Redskins' quarterback concerns. Backup Jeff George was absent for the birth of his third child, leaving rookie Todd Husak to take the practice snaps.

George, a 10th-year veteran who signed a four-year, $18.25 million contract in the offseason, is expected to return today. The Redskins have confidence in George even though he has taken just 10 percent of the practice snaps since training camp.

"I don't know that he needs a lot [of practice snaps]," Turner said. "He got great work in training camp. He worked with all the receivers. And he's very aware of everything that's happening on the football field, very intuitive about playing the game. I think we can get him ready in the next two days."

The decision on a starter may not come until Sunday. If Johnson is healthy enough to play, he would start. If not, he would be listed as the third quarterback and become an emergency option.

Johnson's injury, a second-degree MCL sprain, occurred on a fourth-quarter hit during Monday's 27-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans. The fact that the Redskins were using a shotgun formation by that point allowed him to stay in the game.

Yesterday Johnson refused to speculate on when he might return.

"It's way too soon," Johnson said. "It only happened 48 hours ago. Obviously, it's a little tender right now. I'm just taking it day by day. There's no timetable. I'll just go through all the treatment. Time's the best thing for healing… . I'm not going to jeopardize this team by trying to be a hero… . I need to heal up."

Johnson added that the injury is unrelated to the arthroscopic surgery he underwent in the summer of 1999, several months after being traded from the Minnesota Vikings. He ended up playing a full 16-game season that year for the first time in his career, earning his first Pro Bowl invitation.

The risk of further injury is Johnson's biggest concern this week, and a day off Sunday is tempting because the game against the last-place Cardinals is followed by an open date. The Redskins then play the St. Louis Rams on Nov. 20 in another Monday night contest.

"If [the injury] did come at a good time, this was a good time," Johnson said.

As far as the Redskins' scheme is concerned, there is expected to be little change if George starts.

"They're both dropback pocket guys," Turner said. "There's some routes the ball will come out a little different. With Jeff, guys have to be ready, because he spreads the ball around pretty good. Players have to understand, if they haven't been a primary receiver in a route, all of a sudden the ball might be coming their way."

Johnson, 32, has broken off negotiations for a contract extension, meaning he will become an unrestricted free agent in the spring unless the Redskins name him the franchise player. But such a move would strain the salary cap, making George, 32, Washington's likely starter in 2001.

Husak, 22, is expected to compete for backup duties next season. The club's sixth-round draft pick in April, Husak believes he has made progress this season as he learns the playbook and runs the scout team.

"Spending a half-season under Brad and Jeff has made me a lot more educated in the offense," Husak said. "Just being able to pick their brains and watching film and watching them play has helped me learn a lot."

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