Washington Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot was released from the hospital yesterday with a mild concussion. He collided with safety Matt Bowen during practice and was knocked unconscious briefly.
Smoot will be evaluated daily, but club officials believe the starting corner could be cleared to play Sunday against the New York Giants.
The injury occurred during 7-on-7 drills yesterday morning at Redskin Park. Quarterback Rob Johnson passed deep over the middle to receiver Cliff Russell, with Smoot and Bowen defending. According to several players, Smoot ran head-down into Bowen’s chest and fell. Bowen, whose aggressive practice play was an issue during training camp, actually pulled up in an attempt to avoid contact, players said.
Smoot was unconscious “for less than a minute,” trainer Dean Kleinschmidt said, and awoke with a headache and pain in his neck and back. He had feeling and movement throughout his body and displayed no signs of amnesia.
However, given the serious nature of the collision, paramedics stabilized Smoot by strapping him to a board and took him by ambulance to Loudoun County Hospital, where he had neck X-rays and an MRI. No fractures or serious injuries were apparent, and Smoot was released late yesterday afternoon.
“We felt it was the most appropriate thing to board him and transport him to the hospital,” Kleinschmidt said. “With the hit to the head, being unconscious temporarily, having some pain in the back, we decided the best thing to do was to move him.”
Practice was halted for about five minutes while Smoot was attended to but resumed as the ambulance pulled out of Redskin Park.
“You know, Fred is a comedian, so I thought he was joking at first,” said fellow cornerback Rashad Bauman, who would be in line to replace Smoot in the starting lineup. “As it continued and he was still on the ground, it just got worse and worse. We’ll just hope for the best, and hopefully he can be out there Sunday and be ready for us.”
Other than to say he was not hurt, Bowen declined to speak about the play, prompting questions whether the hard-hitting safety was to blame for Smoot’s injury.
Coach Steve Spurrier, who was upset with Bowen and others during training camp for hitting too hard, spoke yesterday as though this was a similar situation.
“We’re going to do a better job of trying to avoid collisions,” Spurrier said. “We all have to realize we’re practicing against each other. … Certainly it’s a collision that we hope doesn’t happen again.”
Those who were involved in the play, however, indicated Smoot caused the injury himself, rather than getting hit by another player.
“He was just trying to play the ball, him and the safety,” said Russell, the intended receiver. “I wasn’t hit.”
Said cornerback Champ Bailey: “[Smoot] bumped into Matt. I really can’t say how his head or neck snapped or jammed up or whatever. … He just collided with Matt Bowen and went down.”
Club officials were hopeful yesterday that Smoot can play Sunday. There are no standard practices for players with concussions, but frequently those who are knocked out during games are held out the following week for precautionary reasons.
If Smoot cannot play, nickel back Bauman would move into the starting lineup. The second-year corner, though, is recovering from a pulled hamstring in last week’s game at Atlanta.
“We’re working on it day to day,” Bauman said. “My hamstring is a little sore, but I’m going to be all right.”
The only other cornerback on Washington’s roster is undrafted rookie Ade Jimoh, who saw his first career action last week and surrendered a 42-yard touchdown pass to Falcons receiver James Farris.
“It was a learning experience,” Jimoh said. “There are some things I just have to work on and get corrected.”
Defensive coordinator George Edwards said some of his backup safeties, particularly veteran David Terrell, would get reps at cornerback during practice today in case the team is short-handed Sunday.
“You can’t replace Fred, and I don’t think anybody on this team will try to replace him,” Bailey said. “He’s a big part of our team, a big part of our defense. Losing him, yeah, we’re losing a lot.”
Staff writer Jody Foldesy contributed to this report.