- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 22, 2001

CARLISLE, Pa. — One … two … three … four … No, I'm not timing Darrell Green in the 40 or counting all the former Chiefs on the Redskins payroll. I'm keeping track of how many passes Jeff George is throwing in this, his first day of real practice since the Tendinitis Scare.
An underneath route to Rod Gardner … on the money. A dart to Michael Westbrook in the back of the end zone … nice. A quick shot to Stephen Alexander down the right seam … missed him. All in all, though, a pretty encouraging return for George, who has been out of commission since can it be? the second day of training camp.
"Fifty-nine throws," Marty Schottenheimer says afterward. See, I'm not the only one monitoring George's activity closely. The Redskins are keeping a log, too. And well they should. As the first two preseason games have shown, the offense without George is no offense at all. Except maybe for the opposition, which has returned one interception for a touchdown and used other picks to set up more scores.
After Pedro Martinez, George probably has the most-watched right arm in sports today. Without him, the Redskins have NO HOPE this season. Even with him it could be rough going, but without him? Forget it. We're talking 4-12 if not worse.
In best-case scenarios, one player's injury is another's opportunity. But Todd Husak and Sage Rosenfels haven't exactly seized the day. In fact, all it took was one preseason game for the Redskins to send out an S.O.S. (Save Our 'Skins) and pick Tony Banks off the Dallas scrap heap. Banks, however, is merely an insurance policy the team hopes it will never need. Everything in Burgundy Land hinges on George playing and playing well.
For three weeks Schottenheimer and his staff have been saying novenas for their quarterback, praying that the twinge he felt in his shoulder was nothing more than that. Pain in the shoulder of a 33-year-old QB isn't a good sign, especially when his arm is the single best thing about him. And since George had never experienced such pain before, the injury was particularly worrisome. What if the MRI was lying? What if this was the beginning of the end for him?
Right up to the start of practice yesterday morning, George felt "a little bit unsure," he said. All he had done during his convalescence, after all, was lob the ball back and forth with a trainer or another quarterback. It didn't tell him anything about the progress he was or wasn't making.
After his first workout, though, everyone could breathe a little more easily. He never really uncorked his fastball, but he threw with authority and a surprising amount of accuracy. More importantly, he said, "I was able to do all the different throws across my body and so forth so that's good.
"I just threw it naturally. Could I have thrown it harder? Maybe. But I wasn't thinking about that… . There are two weeks left in the preseason, and I'm trying to get ready for the opener."
After George got his reps the other quarterbacks took their turns and you were reminded how badly the Redskins need their No. 1 quarterback. One time Rosenfels fired a pass well behind Rod Gardner; another time Banks plunked an offensive lineman in the helmet. (Earlier in camp, Husak had drilled quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer in the back of the head with the ball.) It was great to have George back, all right.
But this was just the first test. There would be others. Marty Schottenheimer, for one, isn't counting his quarterbacks before they're (totally) healed. "As I speak," he said, "[there are] no difficulties [with George]." As I speak. Hardly the most reassuring words. "We'll just continue to increase the number of throws."
Think of George as a pitcher on a strict pitch count. Yesterday his target was 60 passes and he threw 59. This morning the training staff might increase that to 70 or so. Maybe by Friday, he'll feel good enough to take a few snaps in the preseason game against Cleveland. But only a few. The focus is still on Sept. 9 and San Diego.
Then, too, said George, "Obviously, I wasn't throwing the deep ball [yesterday]. I didn't think I was ready for that yet." So there's still that hurdle to clear. The early returns are promising, though.
"We're so far ahead of schedule compared to where I was a couple of days ago," he said. "That's exciting to me. The main thing is, how do I feel tonight?"
That is, indeed, the question. And it will remain the question until George cuts it loose in a few practices and wakes up the next morning pain-free. In the meantime, the Redskins will count his every pass and, if necessary, carry his food tray for him. When there's only one quarterback on the roster, you can't be too careful.


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