- The Washington Times - Monday, October 5, 2009

If there was any positive for the Washington Redskins during their dismal 1-2 start, it was their new punter, Hunter Smith.

So it hurt the team when Smith injured his groin on his first punt Sunday against Tampa Bay and couldn’t return.

“It’s happened to me every year for about the last five years, usually in preseason,” Smith said. “But I’ve never missed a game [in my 11 seasons]. This feels similar. We’ll just have to go through rehab and see.”

Smith will have an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of his injury.

Smith said he thought kicker Shaun Suisham did “a really valiant job” in his place, but Suisham wasn’t as complimentary after averaging 26.7 yards on three punts.

Suisham punted twice during training camp but hadn’t punted regularly since he was in high school in Wallaceburg, Ontario, in 2000.

“It’s quite a skill,” he said. “You get more respect for the guys who do it. It was enough for us to win the game, but it was nowhere near what Hunter does. For me, it’s just getting the ball off, trying not [to] do a disaster. I just hope Hunter bounces back [quickly].”

Smith still held on Suisham’s kicks, including the first extra point try that was blocked by Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber.

Cornelius Griffin’s was Washington’s only other reported injured player. The defensive tackle, who missed just four games the last four years, said his ailing left elbow was no big deal.

Jarmon saves the day

One of the most recent additions to the Redskins helped save the game.

Tampa Bay was trailing 16-13 and facing third-and-1 with less than two minutes remaining when defensive end Jeremy Jarmon caused running back Clifton Smith to fumble after he got the first down. Safety Chris Horton recovered at the Tampa Bay 29, and the Redskins ran out the clock.

Jarmon was a third-round pick out of Kentucky in July’s supplemental draft - just before the start of training camp.

“I just made a play,” he said. “The coaches had me in there for a reason. Yes, I’m a rookie but I’ve been doing some really good things in practice. I hustle, I work hard. They put me in there in that situation, and they told me, ‘If you want to continue to be in there you’ve got to make plays for us.’ ”

Hall comes through

The Redskins trailed 10-0 early in the third quarter, and Tampa Bay had the ball, looking for another score.

The defense needed a big play - and it came via cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who intercepted Josh Johnson’s pass intended for Antonio Bryant at the Washington 37 and returned it to the Tampa Bay 41. The pick, Hall’s second of the season, led to Suisham’s 42-yard field goal that finally put the Redskins on the scoreboard and started their comeback.

“I think it was an emotional play,” Hall said. “It was a play somebody needed to make. We were on the sidelines just talking. We needed to make a play, period.”

Third-down improvement

The Redskins entered the game ranked last in third-down defense, allowing opponents to convert 22 of 43 opportunities.

But there was huge improvement against Tampa Bay, which went 2-for-13 on third down.

“We had some magic third-down calls and sprinkled some major third-down dust on them,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “Guys flew around and executed and played with a great passion. It helped we had a younger, less-experienced quarterback that only had a week of practice.”

During the week, Blache vowed to be a “maverick” and “riverboat gambler” against the Buccaneers. The first sign came with several cornerback blitzes, one of which netted a sack for second-year defensive back Justin Tryon.

“It was a little more aggressive, absolutely,” coach Jim Zorn said.

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