- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

The way Steve Spurrier has been praising Rock Cartwright all week, you get the feeling he’d like to give the stocky fullback his first career start at tailback Sunday at Carolina.

Spurrier might not have that option, though, because the way things stand right now, the Washington Redskins barely have enough healthy running backs to take the field.

Tailbacks Trung Canidate (sprained ankle), Ladell Betts (fractured forearm), Chad Morton (sprained ankle) and Sultan McCullough (fractured hand) are banged up. So is starting fullback Bryan Johnson, who suffered a concussion last week against Seattle.

That leaves only Cartwright and newly signed tailback John Simon as fully healthy running backs on Washington’s roster and gives Spurrier limited options.

Though Cartwright seems the most logical candidate to start at tailback after gaining 81 yards in 13 carries last week against Seattle, he has been forced to line up at fullback in practice all week with Johnson taking it easy.

“Right now, he’s been the only fullback,” Spurrier said. “So he hasn’t been starting in practice, because he’s the only one there. But he’s capable of playing a lot at tailback, whether he starts or not.”

If Johnson can start, Cartwright could be moved to tailback. But the Redskins are concerned about Johnson’s well-being after last week’s hit to the head. Spurrier said it wasn’t the first concussion Johnson has suffered this year.

“He’s been sort of getting some slight concussions, not real heavy ones but just enough to keep him out of some games after they’ve started,” Spurrier said. “So we’re trying to find a new helmet for him right now.”

Johnson, who is listed as probable for Sunday, has been trying out helmets that might offer more protection. He experimented with the increasingly popular Revolution helmet during practice yesterday but plans to go back to a more original design with some extra padding.

“I don’t think there have been any smaller concussions,” Johnson said. “But I am playing a position where you take a lot of hits and give a lot of hits.”

Canidate, meanwhile, struggled in his return last Sunday after missing three weeks with a high ankle sprain. He picked up only 34 yards on 15 carries, and was still hobbling around Redskin Park yesterday with his foot wrapped in ice.

Dalton steps in

With nose tackle Jermaine Haley still hampered by a fractured thumb and a sprained shoulder, Lional Dalton has had an impressive two weeks in the starting lineup.

Dalton, the former Ravens and Broncos tackle acquired in a trade during training camp, was a forgotten man the first six weeks of the season. He played sporadically in the first two games, then was inactive for the next four.

Haley’s injuries, though, have given Dalton another chance, and the 6-foot-1, 315-pounder has responded with solid play. Last week he recorded his first sack of the season and only the third by a Washington interior lineman.

With Haley questionable for Sunday, Dalton is in line to make his third straight start.

“It feels good to be a part of the team and contribute,” he said. “My wife told me, ‘Things happen for a reason. Eventually your time will come.’ [Defensive coordinator] George [Edwards] told me, ‘Eventually your time will come.’ Now it’s here. It’s up to me to take advantage of it and stay in this position.”

Extra points

Morton practiced for the first time in nearly two weeks and expects to play though he said his sprained ankle felt sore by the end of the day. Wide receiver Patrick Johnson has taken over kickoff and punt return duties while Morton has been out, a difficult position to play when you don’t get much practice.

“Yeah, the more you’re back there, the easier it gets,” Johnson said. “But I realize I’m [just] taking Chad’s place until he comes back. That doesn’t mean I can’t do a good job at it — it’s just that’s what he was brought here to do.” …

Cornerbacks Fred Smoot (bruised sternum) and Rashad Bauman (sprained ankle), safety Andre Lott (sprained ankle), center Larry Moore (sprained foot), Betts and Haley missed practice. Only Betts and Moore are listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game; the rest are expected to play in some capacity. …

The Redskins had to cut practice short by about 30 minutes yesterday when the unusually blustery conditions became too much to handle. Temperatures in the mid-40s combined with sustained winds of 35 mph and occasional gusts up to 60 mph made for a miserable afternoon.

“That was one of the top three coldest practice days I’ve ever been through,” Spurrier said. “We got through most of it. We cut out our special teams, kicking stuff. Of course, you couldn’t throw at all in the wind, but we hopefully got something accomplished.”

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