Jim Zorn was excited after Sunday’s 25-17 win over the Detroit Lions, which gave the Washington Redskins a 6-2 record at the season’s halfway point.
His players were less thrilled.
“Victory Monday!” Zorn yelled in the locker room.
“We’re 6-2!” he shouted.
The “hip, hip hooray” that punctuated the Redskins’ two previous road wins was replaced by a simple “1-2-3-win.”
Zorn began to see signs following last week’s win over Cleveland, but it was crystal clear as the Redskins rallied past Detroit by scoring 19 unanswered points: His team is worn out.
“Just the reaction the players had after the game,” he said Monday at Redskin Park. “It wasn’t ho hum. It was [sighing], a subtle temperament. … The energy wasn’t there.”
Zorn gave the players Monday off for only the second time this season, in equal parts because the Redskins have an extra day to prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers and because they have been at it for a while.
The Redskins were the NFL‘s first team to start training camp and are among the last set of teams to reach their bye week (following the Pittsburgh game). Last week, the practices Wednesday - when eight of the 53 players sat out - and Thursday were noticeably shorter.
There could be another factor for the muted atmosphere: The Redskins didn’t overtake Detroit until 4:42 remained in the third quarter. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache wasn’t pleased with his group’s performance, and the offense scored only one touchdown despite gaining 439 yards.
So was the Redskins’ attitude one of fatigue or displeasure?
“I think it was a combination of both,” Zorn said. “They’re really tired because they’ve given great effort and really put it out there. We talk about being physical against every team we face, and it was certainly true Sunday because the Lions had a lot of pride and they wanted to be 1-6 and not 0-7.”
The Redskins are nowhere near those depths.
The Redskins may have six wins, but they have just as many (or more) injury concerns. Four starters sat out against Detroit, and seven starters are nursing injuries.
“The bumps and bruises are adding up,” quarterback Jason Campbell said. “This is an important week to prepare for Pittsburgh and then have the break. We have to continue to press on.”
The injuries are mounting to the point where the beginning or end of Zorn’s Monday news conference is dominated by injury queries. This week wasn’t different. The latest:
cDefensive end Jason Taylor became the latest player to go down. Taylor’s surgically repaired left calf underwent a minor procedure Monday. Zorn said a small skin infection (but not a staph infection) was discovered and is being treated with antibiotics. Taylor will stay off his feet for three days and isn’t expected to play.
“He’s likely not to play in this football game,” Zorn said. “Hopefully the bye will help. We’re going to try and eliminate any kind of swelling and keep his conditioning up and see what we’ve got in a week or so.”
cCornerback Shawn Springs (calf) was ruled out against Pittsburgh. He already has missed four games.
cZorn expects defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin (shoulder), safety Chris Horton (ankle), running back Clinton Portis (ankle, hip flexor), left tackle Chris Samuels (knee) and receiver Santana Moss (hamstring) to play. Griffin and Horton missed the Detroit game.
“We don’t have major injuries but a lot of little nicks that have to be dealt with on a daily basis,” Zorn said. “It shows you what kind of toll it takes [on a player physically] during the football season, and now we’re halfway through. There’s one more really physical game, and then we get a break.”
The Redskins fortunately have received solid play from unlikely sources. Safety Mike Green, not on the team two weeks ago, started for Horton and made five unassisted tackles.
“Every team has injuries at this point of the season,” linebacker London Fletcher said. “You look at everybody’s roster, and somebody is going to be hurt, and somebody else has to fill the void. You can’t get caught up in the injuries. Football will still be played on Sunday and Monday. They won’t call the game because somebody’s injured. Give me the guys we got, and let’s go play football.”
Despite the injuries, the Redskins are one of only two teams (along with the Giants) to rank among the top seven in offense (sixth) and defense (seventh). They also realize they must play better for their rematch against the Giants on Nov. 30 to have NFC East implications.
“We’re not a great football team - we understand that,” Fletcher said. “We’re a good football team that has the potential and ability to be great when we do it the way we’re capable of doing it, week in and week out, for 60 minutes.”