- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

The Washington Redskins lost their best defensive player yesterday when tackle Cornelius Griffin strained a hip flexor in the second quarter of a 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals at FedEx Field.

It is not known whether Griffin will miss any games because of the injury.

“It seemed bad at first, but you never know. Tomorrow will tell more about it,” said Griffin, who will undergo an MRI today. “I slipped and then I hit a double-team, which didn’t make it any better. Just have to get it better as soon as possible.”

Griffin has been durable, missing just five games during his five-year career with the New York Giants and the Redskins.

“It was very frustrating: My teammates are out there playing, and I’m in the locker room,” said Griffin, who was escorted from the sideline before halftime to get his injury checked.

Jermaine Haley, who had seen minimal playing time this season, replaced Griffin on the defensive line.

“It will hurt if Cornelius is out,” linebacker Marcus Washington said. “He’s playing probably the best of any defensive tackle I’ve seen in a long time.”

With seven games remaining, Griffin is three tackles and one sack short of his career highs in those categories.

While Griffin’s status is unclear, reserve linebacker Khary Campbell likely is done for the season.

Campbell injured the anterior cruciate ligament of his left knee, and he also will have an MRI today. Brandon Barnes replaced him in goal-line defense yesterday.

Linebackers LaVar Arrington and Michael Barrow have missed the past seven and nine games, respectively.

Marvin’s return

The Cincinnati victory was especially sweet for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, who returned to Washington for the first time since he ran the Redskins’ defense in 2002.

Lewis was publicly criticized last week by some of his former players for using his stint in Washington as a steppingstone to his first head coaching job.

“It’s good to see the people,” Lewis said after the game. “I really enjoyed my time here. I was here for the long-term, contrary to what some people wrote this week.”

In building his Bengals, Lewis has three former Redskins assistants: Ricky Hunley, Hue Jackson and Chip Morton.

He also has eight former Washington players: receiver Cliff Russell, running back Kenny Watson, offensive tackle Alex Sulfsted, center Larry Moore, defensive end Carl Powell, injured linebacker LaDairis Jackson, cornerback Rashad Bauman and injured safety Ricot Joseph.

Springs, Smoot burned

Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot, two of the Redskins’ most reliable players on defense through the first half of the season, finally met their match yesterday. Each cornerback was burned early in the loss, helping pave the way for the Bengals to open a 17-0 lead.

Springs was schooled by Cincinnati wide receiver Chad Johnson for a 12-yard gain in the first quarter that set up Rudi Johnson’s 1-yard touchdown run. Chad Johnson later beat Smoot for a 9-yard gain to the Cincinnati 3, setting up Carson Palmer’s touchdown pass to tight end Tony Stewart.

They weren’t big plays, but they were costly.

“They handled our pressure,” Springs said. “They picked their spots, made plays in the first half and moved the ball pretty good.”

Though the Redskins’ defense clamped down in the second half, the unit is likely to lose its top ranking in the NFL after surrendering 316 yards in the game. It’s the third straight week Washington has given up at least 300 yards on defense after keeping opponents under that mark through the season’s first six games.

“What [the Bengals] really did a great job of was taking what we gave them,” Smoot said. “Every offense has to take and give sometimes. And they were patient enough to do that, which I don’t think people have been.”

Harris steps up

Walt Harris continued his strong play as the Redskins’ third cornerback, intercepting Palmer for his third big play in as many weeks.

Harris did a nice job breaking in front of Chad Johnson to pick off Palmer late in the second quarter. The interception quashed a Cincinnati drive and kept the Redskins within striking distance.

“He just ran an out route,” Harris said. “I just saw it coming and got a good break on it. He threw it kind of late, but I’ll take it.”

Harris has been in the middle of several key plays of late. He forced a fumble Oct.31 against Green Bay, then recovered a blocked punt and returned it for a touchdown Nov.7 at Detroit.

Out of Portis’ hands

For the second time in three games, running back Clinton Portis’ carries were cut short by a big deficit.

Portis has rushed for more than four yards an attempt in four straight contests, and twice he put up huge numbers — 171 yards at Chicago and 147 at Detroit. But both two weeks ago against Green Bay and yesterday, Portis was limited to 17 carries.

Yesterday’s game plan had been to attack Cincinnati’s last-ranked run defense, and it worked in limited fashion — Portis’ 82 yards made for an impressive 4.8-yard clip. But coach Joe Gibbs was sorry Portis didn’t get more chances.

“We took it out of his hands,” Gibbs said. “I felt bad. I thought he was going to run like mad.”

Portis shrugged off his inactivity, saying his bigger priority was getting a victory.

“I don’t think you get frustrated by not having the ball,” Portis said. “You get frustrated with losing. If you lose, it don’t matter who has the ball. If I don’t touch the ball and we win, that’s great.”

D-Mac’s chance

Wide receiver Darnerien McCants made his first two catches of the season after getting onto the gameday roster for just the second time under Joe Gibbs.

McCants, who re-upped for three years and $4.5million in the spring, often has been relegated to street clothes as James Thrash and Taylor Jacobs have occupied the reserve receiver spots. Yesterday, Gibbs decided to make five receivers active after McCants made some nice plays in practice.

The result was, in typical McCants fashion, two big catches. His pair of receptions went for 46 yards to propel Washington’s lone touchdown drive. Entering the game, McCants had eight touchdowns on just 48 NFL catches.

“Darnerien is a guy who’s making a few plays there,” Gibbs said. “I think he’s a playmaker, and that’s a guy we’re probably going to have to give an opportunity to down the stretch here to see how he does.”

Inactives

The Redskins’ inactives were kicker John Hall, linebacker Mike Barrow, linebacker LaVar Arrington, offensive lineman Mark Wilson, return man Antonio Brown, offensive lineman Vaughn Parker and defensive end Phillip Daniels. Tim Hasselbeck was the third quarterback.

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