- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

A painful knee injury to right guard Brenden Stai will hamper the Washington Redskins' attempts to fix the protection problems that plagued them in Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Stai appears unlikely to play at Green Bay this weekend with tendinitis in his left knee. Although an MRI yesterday indicated no torn ligaments, Stai is expected to need some rest to reduce the swelling and pain. He injured his knee early in Sunday's game and continued playing until it finally buckled on one of the last plays.
"There's no way I could go out there and play right now," Stai said. "But each day makes a huge, significant difference."
Meanwhile, an intriguing potential long-term solution at guard visited Redskin Park: former Cleveland Browns standout tackle Orlando Brown, who sat out the past two seasons after being struck in the eye by a penalty flag in a December 1999 game.
Brown, 31, reportedly is close to settling his lawsuit with the NFL and would be eligible to play afterward. He did not work out for club officials but appears to have done plenty of weight-lifting to keep his 6-foot-7, 350-pound frame in shape, according to those who saw him.
No signing appeared imminent as Brown's lawsuit seemingly had not been resolved. Futhermore, Brown apparently isn't sure whether he wants to return to the league as a guard. And Washington would have to decide whether to sign someone who wouldn't provide substantial contributions for a number of weeks as he returns from a long absence and adjusts to a new position and system.
Brown, 31, signed a six-year, $27million contract with the Browns in February 1999 but was released in September 2000, nine months after his high-profile injury. Brown was struck in the eye by the BB-filled flag thrown by referee Jeff Triplette. Brown staggered off the field, then returned in anger and shoved Triplette.
He was suspended indefinitely by the league and sat out the final two games of the season before his suspension was lifted. He no longer faces any type of sanction, an NFL spokesman said.
Regardless of Brown's situation, the Redskins must solve the problems on their offensive line, which was sharp Oct.6 at Tennessee but gave up seven sacks to a fairly basic Saints rush scheme on Sunday.
Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels now has had two poor games in the past three. He and line coach Kim Helton maintain that his batch of small, nagging injuries in the season's early weeks aren't the problem, but Samuels acknowledged that only his first game against Philadelphia's Hugh Douglas as a rookie was worse than his Sept.22 effort against San Francisco's Andre Carter and Sunday's against Darren Howard.
"Since that game [in 2000], I would have to say those two have been my worst," Samuels said. "[Howard is] a pretty good rusher. He made some plays on me. I'm pretty disappointed in my performance. I've just got to get better."
Said Helton: "He's obviously not in as good shape as if he was healthy the whole time, but I think that's kind of a weak crutch. I think he fought his way through some games. Obviously he's fatigued. But we've got to get him to play better."
The Redskins' interior line also had a rough performance Sunday, getting beaten by the Saints' talented interior tandem of Grady Jackson and Norman Hand. Stai seemed affected by his injury and left guard Wilbert Brown, making his first NFL start in place of injured David Loverne, was simply outmanned in many instances.
"Wilbert played probably about as hard as he could play against some pretty good players," Helton said. "I thought he got outphysicaled a couple times. But when you've got 11 men out there on the field running around, I always like to start [evaluating] with the best ones first. If our best ones play well, then you work your way into the blue-collar guys."
The early indications are that, if Stai cannot play, Washington would start Wilbert Brown at right guard and Loverne, who is basically healed from a bruised thigh, at left guard. However, veteran Kipp Vickers, who is rehabilitating from arthroscopic knee surgery, and Ross Tucker also are options.
Stai didn't know the results of the MRI when he spoke at Redskin Park but they ultimately concurred with what doctors had told him to that point. He called his prognosis "touch and go," saying, "It could be something that takes a little time to recoup, or it could be something that miraculously at my age heals right away."
The line's struggles made it difficult for rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey to duplicate his sharp debut at Tennessee. Ramsey threw four interceptions against New Orleans and had four other passes that would have been picked off if not for drops or penalties by the Saints defenders.
But Ramsey also must learn how to get rid of the ball more quickly and scramble at times, coach Steve Spurrier said. The rookie passer impressed at Tennessee by hanging in the pocket until the last second and delivering precise passes, but he might have taken that tactic too far against the Saints.
"Sometimes I just wish Patrick had gone up the middle for 5 or 6 yards," Spurrier said. "That might be something he has to learn."
Ramsey agreed, saying, "I tried to make too much happen by myself a few times. I'm learning when holes [in coverage] close now that's a new thing at this level."
But Helton took responsibility for Ramsey getting knocked around, saying it was "the bravest, toughest game I've ever seen a quarterback play."
"Could he have scrambled a few times? Could he have thrown the ball away a few times?" Helton said. "I've always felt that you block them. There's obviously a cut-off point where [the protection] is going to break down. But I don't remember watching the film where there were times when he could have done anything other than what he did."


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