- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

That Randy Thomas broke down this season, as one Washington Redskins veteran said Monday, comes as no surprise. Thomas is 33, missed significant playing time over the past four seasons and underwent neck and knee operations this year.

But the timing of the season-ending injury the right guard suffered Sunday - less than six quarters into the season - leaves the Redskins considering their options for a replacement to start against the Detroit Lions on Sunday and for the rest of the season.

Thomas tore his right triceps working in pass protection against Gary Gibson in the Redskins’ 9-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday and will undergo surgery this week.

The Redskins successfully replaced him in past seasons - he missed the final two games in 2005 with a broken leg and all but three games in 2007 with a torn left triceps.

This injury, however, presents a new challenge because the in-house candidates have either little or no NFL experience - a difficulty that prevented coach Jim Zorn from immediately naming a new starter.

Will Montgomery replaced Thomas against the Rams, and second-year guard Chad Rinehart also is a candidate.

“I’m going to meet with our offensive staff, and then we’ll try and find the right formula,” Zorn said. “I don’t know who’s going to fill that position right at the moment. We’ll know more as we go along. … We may try a couple of scenarios.”

Zorn ruled out signing a player who could start right away, but the front office will scour the available guards at least to provide immediate depth.

One obvious candidate to step in is Pete Kendall, who didn’t miss a snap over the past two years as the Redskins’ left guard but currently isn’t with a team.

“No contact from Skins. I’d have interest,” Kendall said in a text message.

Zorn declined to rule out contacting Kendall or another veteran. But the most likely scenario calls for Montgomery (who has six career starts) or Rinehart (who has no pro snaps) to start a few games, then determining whether outside help is required.

“I’ve already had a conversation in my mind about that,” Zorn said. “I think [signing a new player] is the harder choice to make because of where we’ve come with the guys we’ve got.”

Rinehart has been listed as inactive for 15 of 18 games, including both games this season, since he was selected in the third round of last year’s draft.

“We haven’t really talked about who’s going to be playing, but I feel pretty confident,” he said. “I started two preseason games and got to go against [starters]. I felt I showed them that if I fill in, we’ll still be able to compete on offense.”

Rinehart filled in for Thomas against the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars in the preseason and hopes that experience plus being in his second pro season will equal production if he’s called upon.

“Playing next to Casey [Rabach] and the way he sees the defensive front and being able to adjust with him when he makes the calls, I know a lot more of what’s going on,” he said.

A lack of versatility - Rinehart plays only guard - has kept him out of the lineup instead of players like Montgomery, who works at center and both guard spots.

Montgomery played the final 50 snaps of the Rams game and performed adequately except for a holding penalty that was declined.

The Redskins became a decidedly left-side running team in Thomas’ absence, including the last six runs, but Zorn said he won’t alter the balance or put an extra tight end on the field to compensate on the right side.

“We’ll slot the guy in there and we’ll run our stuff,” he said. “That’s what essentially is going to happen. Based on the communication, the execution and all those things that happen with that guy and the reps we can give him, I fully expect that person to rise up.

“If it was me, I would want to step in and not look back, step in and take charge and have confidence in the situation. That’s what pros are waiting for - they’re waiting for their chance. That’s what the opportunity is going to be for this guy, and maybe it will be one, two guys as we go along to see who fits well.”

Thomas was not made available to reporters. In a statement, he said: “I’m just very disappointed right now. It hurts because I want to be out there with my teammates. I will have the surgery this week and focus my attention on rehabbing.”

“He means a lot to everybody - he’s always motivating and he’s an awesome football player,” left tackle Chris Samuels said. “Anytime you lose a guy like that, it hurts you. But we have some young guys that have to step in there and fill that role.”

The Redskins made the playoffs the last two seasons in which Thomas was lost for the year. In 2005, he was replaced by Ray Brown. Two years ago, Thomas and right tackle Jon Jansen missed nearly the entire season and were replaced by Jason Fabini and Stephon Heyer, respectively.

“It’s going to be different without Randy there, but we just have to roll with how it is and keep going,” Heyer said.

Said left guard Derrick Dockery: “It’s imperative for whoever is in there to play well and play at a high level. We’ll try to get some cohesiveness and chemistry, but for the most part I think we’ll be just fine.”

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