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Less optimism surrounding Washington QB Alex Smith's availability vs. Panthers

Alex Smith's latest comeback has hit a snag.

The veteran quarterback's calf felt a bit sore Saturday, leaving less optimism that he'll be able to start for the Washington Football Team against the Panthers on Sunday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported.

Smith was considered 50-50 to play in Week 16 after being a full participant in Friday's practice. The team will check on him again Sunday morning, so there's still a chance he'll suit up in a game that could help Washington win the NFC East.

Otherwise, Dwayne Haskins, who was fined and stripped of his captaincy for violating COVID-19 protocols earlier in the week, will make his second start in a row. Washington is 4-1 with Smith starting this year and 1-4 with Haskins, though their numbers are not markedly different. Whoever's under center could be without two key weapons -- wide receiver Terry McLaurin (ankle) is doubtful and running back Antonio Gibson (toe) is questionable.

Defense has been the club's calling card, and that will still probably need to be the case for coach Ron Rivera as he takes on his former team.

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