- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 2, 2004

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs yesterday conceded the club soon must consider shutting down linebacker Mike Barrow and his balky knee.

Gibbs’ statement followed yet another pessimistic forecast for Barrow’s availability. The 11-year pro, who signed a six-year, $14.6million contract in April to start at middle linebacker, has yet to play in a game for Washington. Barrow recently revealed his injury is a partially torn tendon.

Gibbs said Barrow pretty much needs a “miracle” to play tomorrow at Cleveland, adding that season-ending surgery could be on the horizon.

“I think it’s getting to a critical stage,” Gibbs said. “You can’t keep going short a guy [on the 53-man roster]. He knows that. We know that. The doctors and trainers [know it]. … We need something to happen there, because it’s been a long time now.”

Washington has coped quite well without Barrow, thanks to the mature play of Antonio Pierce. Originally signed in 2001 as an undrafted rookie, Pierce has proved more than capable of making the defensive calls and contributing big plays to the Redskins’ third-ranked defense.

Barrow generally declines to answer questions regarding his knee, referring reporters to the team’s medical staff. Asked yesterday whether he had given any consideration to shutting down his season, Barrow replied, “No.” Asked whether his knee was showing any improvement, he said, “Yeah.”

Morton optimistic

Return man Chad Morton is planning to play tomorrow after making his first appearance at practice this week. But Morton, who was limited to side work, acknowledged lingering pain and said the final decision would come just before the game.

The Redskins’ kickoff and punt returner called his status “probably 50-50” but then made clear he views the glass as half full.

“I think I have a real good chance,” Morton said. “I’m planning on [playing]. It’s just going to be the last minute, whether I can’t go — if it feels that bad. But as of now, I’m planning on playing.”

The injury occurred on a third-quarter punt return in Monday’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Morton, who also suffered a concussion on the hit, looked terrible early in the week but progressively seemed more energetic.

“I’ve still got another whole day and then Sunday morning,” he noted. “A lot can happen between now and then.”

Ladell Bets likely would return kickoffs if Morton sits, and wide receiver James Thrash probably would take over on punts.

Among other injuries, safety Andre Lott (hamstring) was declared out. Safety Matt Bowen (groin) practiced for the first time this week and is expected to start at Cleveland.

Repeat performance?

Thanks to a superb finish against the Cowboys, wide receiver Rod Gardner is coming off a 10-catch, 167-yard performance that has him ranked among the NFC leaders. Now his challenge is to keep it up.

Gardner, a four-year veteran, has never recorded consecutive 100-yard games. In the contests following his previous four triple-digit efforts, he averaged just 38.8 yards. Stringing together big games could be the first step toward capturing national recognition.

“I’m striving for it,” Gardner said. “Every week, I’m going out there to do what I can do. If they give me an opportunity to make plays, I’m going to do whatever I can. I don’t worry about [anything else].”

Extra points

Cowboys safety Roy Williams was fined $7,500 by the NFL for an illegal hit Monday — but not the game-ending spear he dealt Gardner which, if flagged, would have set up a potential tying field goal attempt.

An NFL spokesman said Williams was fined for a helmet-to-helmet in the first quarter against a defenseless receiver. The play was not specified, but it is believed Williams was fined for the crushing blow he dealt wide receiver Laveranues Coles on a crossing route. Coles dropped the ball just before being blindsided. …

Gibbs called this “one of the hardest weeks in football,” referring not just to its short nature but also the emotion that was spent Monday night and the fact that Washington’s coaches and players are dealing with adversity together for the first time.

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