- The Washington Times - Friday, September 13, 2002

Washington Redskins defensive tackle Daryl Gardener yesterday endured another flare-up of the back spasms that kept him out of three games this preseason and led to a pair of surgeries in 2000 and 2001.

Gardener missed practice and limped out of Redskin Park in the early afternoon, declining questions. He is considering another pain-killing shot after meeting with the Redskins' back specialist. Gardener met with the specialist before signing with the Redskins in late July and again after the spasms returned.

Sources said Gardener was not looking at immediate surgery, but his situation remains ominous. After an apparent return to health before the opener, Gardener appears saddled with a season-long ailment, and the Redskins can expect spotty contributions from one of their defensive starters.

After not being listed on Wednesday's injury report, Gardener was added as "probable" for Monday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, coach Steve Spurrier said Gardener is doubtful and player sources acknowledged he isn't expected to play.

Agent Neil Schwartz declined comment on Gardener's health. Redskins trainer Dean Kleinschmidt no longer is available to the media.

Meanwhile, Pro Bowl running back Stephen Davis practiced as promised despite the lingering effects of a strained groin suffered in Sunday's opening win over the Arizona Cardinals. Davis played through the injury Sunday but appeared in pain following the game and on Monday at Redskin Park. Davis isn't 100 percent yet but continues to have no doubt that he will play. Spurrier agreed and said Davis ran well during practice.

In place of Gardener, 28-year-old end/tackle Carl Powell will make his first career start, and tackle Del Cowsette, 25, should see significant snaps. Coaches and team officials apparently have braced themselves for Gardener's recurring back problems and thus don't miss him as badly.

"Daryl's taking care of himself," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "We'll be all right. Carl's ready to go."

Said Spurrier: "Daryl was fine after the game, but it flared back up. He probably won't be here tomorrow and he's probably doubtful for the game. If he's here, fine. If he's not, we've got a lot of players ready to go."

Powell started for Gardener during the preseason and held up well. A solid reserve for the Chicago Bears last season, Powell continues to make progress after a difficult start to his career, in which he stuck with but didn't play for several NFL clubs and sat out all of 1999.

"I think [the preseason] was really important for me," Powell said "I've been bounced around a little bit, and last year was definitely one of my better years. So I was just looking to contribute as much as I possibly can."

The Redskins signed Gardener July 30 to round out a line that, at that point, also had Santana Dotson slated to contribute at defensive tackle. But Dotson was lost for the season to a ruptured Achilles' tendon on Gardener's first day of practice, and a week later Gardener's back spasms returned.

Such spasms previously led to surgeries in 2000 and 2001, causing Gardener miss six and eight games, respectively, for the Miami Dolphins. This summer Miami released him for a variety of reasons, including his health, some missed workouts and a personality clash with coach Dave Wannstedt. He soon after agreed to a one-year, $775,000 contract with Washington.

Gardener had just one tackle and one pressure against the Cardinals last weekend, but he got into the backfield on several occasions. Judging by his history when healthy and his limited work with the Redskins, Gardener seems to present a dynamic element to a line that has uncertain pass-rush potential with Bruce Smith at 39 and Dan Wilkinson and Renaldo Wynn not known as sack artists.

Before the opener Gardener declared himself "100 percent" and said he expected to play the whole game which basically happened, as Powell saw only about 15 snaps. However, Gardener also said surgery was about the only thing that would keep him out of a regular-season game an absence that now seems likely.

"Season, man, please," Gardener said that day. "Season, I don't miss a game. It has to be something real crazy like having surgery."

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