- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 14, 2009

The injury news Friday was all good for the Washington Redskins for a change.

Punter Hunter Smith, running back Ladell Betts and right tackle Stephon Heyer practiced and are expected to be ready for Sunday’s game against Denver.

Smith, who has missed three of the past four games, tested his right groin for the first time this week and kicked well enough that he likely will play Sunday. But coach Jim Zorn said he won’t make a final decision until Saturday. If Smith plays, fill-in Sam Paulescu will be cut and the Redskins will add a player - perhaps practice-squad safety Lendy Holmes - to the roster.

If Smith doesn’t play, he likely will be placed on injured reserve. Running back Clinton Portis (concussion) and tight end Chris Cooley (ankle) still hold roster spots even though they’re out with injuries.

“I punted well,” Smith said. “I felt good. [Waiting until Saturday] is a wise decision because you never know how it’s going to respond. We don’t want any more flare-ups.”

Betts, who will replace Portis, participated in a limited practice because of the left ankle sprain he suffered last week at Atlanta, an injury that sidelined him the previous two days of practice. He said he’s optimistic he can play Sunday.

“I’m headed in the right direction,” he said. “Today gave me a little more optimism. I’m a lot better from after the game - probably about 75 percent.”

Betts hasn’t started since the 2006 season, when he rushed for 871 yards in the season’s final eight games. Betts gained 70 yards on 15 carries against the Falcons despite his injury.

“You get this moment of opportunity, and all of a sudden I’m a little banged-up, but I can’t worry about that,” Betts said. “My body will let me know when it’s ready. I embrace the opportunity.”

Rock Cartwright will start if Betts can’t play. Cartwright last started in 2003 and has just 20 carries in the past four seasons.

Heyer, meanwhile, said he feels better.

“I just needed some time off,” said Heyer, who sprained a ligament Oct. 26 against Philadelphia and aggravated the injury against the Falcons. “In the cold and rain, it’s stiff and couldn’t move. I got some treatment. I’m moving better.”

Heyer has started every game this season - five at right tackle and four on the left side. If he is unable to go, the Redskins would start D’Anthony Batiste, who hasn’t started an NFL game since 2007 and has never started at tackle.

Westbrook’s return

Byron Westbrook’s comeback from an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee wasn’t as quick as that of teammate H.B. Blades, who was hurt on the same play against the Eagles and played Sunday just 12 days after surgery.

Westbrook said he’ll be ready this week.

“Mine was a little worse than H.B.’s because, when I came out, I was done for the game, but he went back in after sitting sat out for a little bit,” Westbrook said. “I was just running to the ball [on punt coverage], and when I got to the sideline, I couldn’t run no more. I could barely put weight on it.”

The injury was Westbrook’s most serious since he tore a hip flexor at the start of his senior year at DeMatha Catholic High School, ruining his chances of a scholarship. He wound up at Division III Salisbury, where he played well enough to earn a minicamp tryout with the Redskins in 2007.

After two years on Washington’s practice squad, the cornerback finally got onto the same field as his older brother - Eagles running back Brian Westbrook - on Oct. 26. Brian was knocked from the game with a concussion before Byron suffered his injury.

“I felt bad for my parents,” Byron said.

Like Byron, Brian is supposed to return Sunday, putting the brothers on course for another meeting Nov. 29 in Philadelphia.

Landry penalized

Redskins safety LaRon Landry was fined $7,500 for his late hit Sunday on Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, the NFL announced.

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