- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2011

Leonard Hankerson’s first NFL play had quarterback John Beck doing damage control on Monday morning.

The Washington Redskins’ quarterback sought out reporters inside the Redskins Park locker room to assume blame for an interception on a pass he intended for the third-round rookie receiver.

Beck spoke for 4 1/2 minutes about Sunday’s loss to Carolina and his performance in the game before making a point to protect Hankerson from criticism that surfaced online about Hankerson’s role in the play.

It appeared Beck expected Hankerson to slow and turn his route into a back-shoulder fade. Hankerson kept running deep, and he wasn’t near Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble when Gamble intercepted the ball. Immediately after the play, Beck held his arms out and palms up, as if to ask Hankerson what happened.

After the game, coach Mike Shanahan said: “That last interception should’ve been a backside shoulder.” Beck called it a “miscommunication.”

Then on Sunday night, Hankerson engaged fans who criticized him on Twitter. “if u wasn’t in the #Huddle don’t tell me I ran the wrong #Route,” Hankerson wrote.

Beck on Monday tried to free Hankerson from the criticism.

“I just want to add one more thing, too, just because I kind of caught wind of what was going on,” he said as his interview neared its conclusion. “Hey, listen: The play with Hankerson, it’s on me. I’m the guy that’s got the ball in my hand. I’m the guy that makes the decision on where that ball goes.

“We were very excited to have Hankerson be a part of this football team. He’s going to be a great asset to this football team. Nothing goes on Hankerson. It all goes on me. You got that?”

Asked what he expected Hankerson to do on the play, Beck declined to elaborate.

“Done,” he said. “Thanks.”

Shanahan downplayed the significance of what he considers to be a learning experience.

“What John did is he threw the same ball to Hankerson that he did to [Jabar] Gaffney right at the end of the [first] half,” Shanahan said. “He kind of underthrew it for a reason because the corner was playing over the top. Obviously, Leonard thought a little bit differently, but that’s the nature of this game. That’s the growing pains that go on with a young player.”

Beck gets positive review

Shanahan seemed pleased by how Beck played in his first NFL start in four years.

“John knows he has to go out there and concentrate on his job - make plays. I thought he did an excellent job doing that,” Shanahan said. “He made some plays with his feet, throws on the run. I thought he handled himself well in drop-back situations. Our goal right now is to get a supporting cast around him that can play at a very high level. The better they play, the better he’ll play.”

Beck watched the film and saw mixed results.

“There were a lot of good things that we did, but there’s a lot of things we can also improve on,” he said. “I think there’s times in the game where maybe [I should have] checked the ball down here or there or just come up with a play here or there.”

Extra points

In injury news: Quarterback Rex Grossman (pneumonia) will remain hospitalized at least until Wednesday, Shanahan said. Tight end Chris Cooley (finger/knee) met with orthopedist Dr. James Andrews after Sunday’s game. He’ll discuss his status for the rest of the season with Shanahan before Wednesday. Shanahan said he does not believe linebacker London Fletcher’s hamstring strain “is that serious.” Free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe never tested his ailing hamstring before Sunday’s game. That casts doubt on his availability for this week’s game against Buffalo. Left tackle Trent Williams still is rehabilitating his high right ankle sprain, and he is not expected to play against Buffalo.

• Asked whether a member of the Redskins organization will attend the workout free agent receiver Terrell Owens is hosting on Tuesday, Shanahan said: “Not that I’m aware of.”

• Free safety Kareem Moore (knee) will begin practicing Wednesday, starting a two-week window in which the Redskins must activate him from the physically-unable-to-perform list or place him on the season-ending injured reserve list.

• Rich Campbell can be reached at rcampbell@washingtontimes.com.

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