- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Washington Redskins’ muddled punting situation gained some clarity yesterday when veteran Tom Tupa’s lower back injury forced him to go on injured reserve.

Placing Tupa on injured reserve meant the Redskins did not have to release a player to get down to the NFL-mandated 65-man roster (plus seven exemptions).

Tupa was injured during warmups for the Cincinnati game Aug. 19.

“As the days kept going by, things haven’t progressed at all,” said Tupa, who got a second opinion on the strain Monday in Los Angeles.

Tupa, 39, is ineligible to play for the Redskins this season, but if he reaches an injury settlement and is released, he can sign with another team and be eligible. He said surgery is not on his radar.

“Right now, I’m just trying to rehab it and get it well as soon as possible,” he said.

Tupa tweaked his back last year during the preseason but recovered in time to punt in every game. His 44.1-yard gross average was third in the NFL, and he was a Pro Bowl alternate.

This year’s injury, Tupa said, “felt like something jammed together a little bit. I’ve taken some shots for it, and it hasn’t relieved it all, which is disappointing because I had hoped that would do the trick.”

Said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs: “It’s a tough deal for us and for Tom. What we’re going to try and do is make the best decision for him and for us and let him think over his options.”

With Tupa out of the picture, the punting competition is between the newly signed Chris Mohr and rookie Andy Groom. The Redskins close the preseason tomorrow at Baltimore.

Groom has punted 13 times for a 34.7-yard average this preseason and is trying to make an NFL roster after being cut by Tampa Bay and San Francisco the last two years.

“It’s just like every other practice and game I’ve had this year — I have to show the coaches I have what it takes to be a punter in the NFL,” he said.

Clark’s early return

Redskins safety Ryan Clark has gone through two days of practice after missing two games with a knee injury and wants to get plenty of playing time against Baltimore.

“They said four weeks, and I was hurt two weeks ago [Monday], so everything is going fine,” said Clark, who joked, “I have to play or I’ll ride the bench the whole year, and nobody wants to do that.

“I have to play to get into game shape. I’m not sure if I could play 60 minutes of a 1 p.m. game, and that’s what I have to do to help this team.”

Ready for real stuff

Sitting in a 300-gallon water tub after practice Monday, H-back Chris Cooley — his spot on the team and place in the starting lineup secure — said the best part about tomorrow night is that it marks the end of the preseason.

“Preseason’s tough,” he said. “You feel like you play a great game last week [against Pittsburgh], and then you have to say, ‘Well, it doesn’t even really matter.’ Four preseason games are a lot. After two games, guys are ready for things to count.”

Keasey’s big shot

Undrafted free agent linebacker Zak Keasey survived the Redskins’ first cut — which included linebackers Jared Newberry and Clifton Smith — but he knows a big game tomorrow is essential.

“It doesn’t really change too much for me; I’m still working my butt off because I know nothing is set in stone yet,” he said. “That’s how I’ll get my playing time, so special teams is a focus.”

Injury report

Cornerback Ade Jimoh (stinger, thigh) returned to practice yesterday. Sitting out were safety Matt Bowen (chest), linebacker Robert McCune (groin), running back Ladell Betts (foot) and receiver Taylor Jacobs (toe). Betts has shed the walking boot he wore Monday, and Jacobs — while not in pads — was doing heavy running work during the first 30 minutes of practice.

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