- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Football players aren't much different from fans, Jon Jansen says. The day after a game, "Everybody reads the paper and checks out the teams we're going to be playing in the future."

When Jansen and his Redskins teammates opened their newspapers yesterday morning, they learned that Eddie George had hurt his knee against Baltimore and Kurt Warner had suffered a broken finger in Kansas City. Did they sympathize with the Titans and Rams, two teams they will be facing in the weeks ahead? I think I'll let Jansen answer that question.

"No," he said unequivocally. "We take care of our own, they can take care of their own."

After losing one starter after another this season Cory Raymer, Michael Westbrook, Tre Johnson et al. the Redskins are hoping the scales are beginning to balance. And perhaps they are. Tennessee and St. Louis, the two toughest teams on their schedule, had been relatively injury-free until last weekend. Maybe it's somebody else's turn to deal with the crutches and walking casts and neck braces.

The Redskins have held up remarkably well under the circumstances. In fact, they've put together a five-game winning streak to take over first place in the NFC East. This is no small feat when you're missing your top receiver, two offensive linemen and various other personnel (e.g. Irving Fryar, Darrell Green, Keith Sims).

"I think we've done a good job of overcoming [injuries]," Brad Johnson said yesterday. "We're a little thin in some areas, but we've hung in there."

What else can a football team do? Injuries in the NFL are as inevitable as tomorrow though not quite as imminent (to borrow Jack Kent Cooke's pet phrase). And the Lombardi Trophy doesn't always go to the strongest and fastest; sometimes it goes to the healthiest.

A year ago, the Redskins didn't have to replace many parts during the season. This year they have a chance to lead the league in MRIs. It's a measure of their depth that they've remained in contention unlike, say, Jacksonville, which was without 11 starters in the second half Sunday.

It helps to have old hands like Jay Leeuwenburg and Andy Heck around to plug holes in the offensive line. Heck, normally a tackle, hadn't played guard since '93 when he filled in for Sims against the Jaguars. The offense functioned just fine, though, and Stephen Davis got his usual 100 yards.

"Offensive line play is pretty similar across the board," he said. "You do some pulling and trapping [at guard], but the fundamentals are essentially the same. It was a lot of fun. It was nice to be out there again."

He's being modest, of course. A lot of tackles have trouble playing inside. It's much more of a power position. Fortunately for the Redskins, Heck has no such difficulty.

By this point in the season, injuries have begun to chip away at most of the contenders. The Eagles have lost Duce Staley. The Giants are making do without Jason Sehorn. The Lions will be minus Germane Crowell for a spell. Over in the other conference, the Bills (Rob Johnson) and Dolphins (Darryl Gardener) both have taken major hits. Buffalo is lucky it has Doug Flutie in reserve just as the Rams are fortunate they have Trent Green. Otherwise, they could kiss their Super Bowl chances goodbye.

"Injuries are the [great] unknown," Norv Turner said. "There's no quota, no limit to the number you can have. I hope we don't lose anyone else. Certain players, when you lose 'em, it makes a dramatic difference."

Like Eddie George?

Norv nodded. "We went through it at the end of last year when Stephen [Davis] couldn't play the last couple of games."

And the running game disappeared.

There's only so much you can do to avoid injuries, though just as there's only so much you can do to avoid an asteroid attack. Over the years, Turner has cut down on the hitting the Redskins do in practice, but he still likes his players to wear pads (unlike a lot of coaches). He's careful, however, to "limit certain blocking schemes and blitzes" that might lead to broken bodies.

"Cory Raymer's [torn up knee] was the most severe injury we've had on the practice field," Norv said. "It's disappointing, because we've worked hard to avoid that sort of thing." But there's no question, he added, that how you conduct your workouts is "a big part of" getting through a season relatively whole. "Because, gosh, you're going to lose guys in games. You don't want to lose 'em in practice [too]."

Sunday's big casualty was Shawn Barber, who hobbled off the field with a sprained knee. He may yet play against the Titans, though, and Fryar and Green might also return to the lineup. The Redskins would like to think their injury luck has turned as they head into the second half of the season; but with eight more bruising games to go, all they can do is hold their collective breath.

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