Nagging injuries hinder progress at Redskins camp

ASHBURN, Va. -- While giving a rundown of the good, bad and ugly from his offensive lineman this week, Washington Redskins assistant coach Joe Bugel dropped a line about guard Randy Thomas that had red flags all over it.

"I am concerned about Randy," Bugel said. "His knee's aching right now."

The usual list of training-camp ailments -- hamstring strains, sore knees, aching groins -- have started to hit the Redskins after a dozen or so practices, and it's not hard to guess which ones could be long-term concerns and which aren't. As fate would have it, the two positions that need the most practice time -- wide receiver and offensive line -- are the ones most affected.

"They're nagging pulls and strains and stuff like that," Redskins coach Jim Zorn said, "so I'm not as concerned about the injuries as much I am about the lack of work."

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The offensive line was a concern at the start of camp, yet there was a day this week when three-fifths of the starters -- center Casey Rabach, right guard Thomas and right tackle Stephon Heyer -- were watching from the sideline.

Rabach's calf injury was minor, and Heyer's knee should be fine in a day or two, but it's not a good sign when the 33-year-old Thomas, who had knee and neck surgeries during the offseason, already is gimpy. If Thomas can't make it through 16 games, the Redskins could be in for a long season.

"It's going to be this up-and-down, getting-reps-and-then-resting type of training camp for him," Zorn said. "At the end of this thing, you've got to have him ready to go."

Heyer and Mike Williams were expected to compete for the starting right tackle spot, but Williams has been sidelined with a groin injury, forcing the offense to go to its third-string option with the first-team unit in practice. Williams, who has lost more than 100 pounds in his return to the NFL, also had dehydration problems earlier in camp. He and Thomas will be among the players sitting out Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage.

"We're bringing him along slowly," Bugel said. "It's like starting all over again for Mike. The techniques, losing over 100 pounds. He's got a chance. We've got to see him in preseason games, that's the bottom line right now."

It also had to be a disconcerting sight this week to see wide receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly sidelined with hamstring injuries for the second camp in a row. Both had the start of their rookie season hindered by hamstring issues in 2008, and Kelly also spent the year battling a knee problem. One or the other -- preferably both -- need to step up this year to improve an offense that sagged late last season.

Devin Thomas will sit out the scrimmage, and Kelly is now healthy enough to play.

"Based on what happened to him last year, he's a little nervous to work through it," Zorn said of Thomas. "And I don't want him to pull it either, so we're just being cautious with him."

While the offense has been forced to the work around the injuries, the defense -- which is expected to be good anyway -- has been relatively healthy. The most significant setback is cornerback Carlos Rogers, who has been out for a week with a strained calf muscle and also will miss the scrimmage.

At least the Redskins have perspective. So far there has been nothing compared to last year's calamity, when defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Alex Buzbee were lost for the season on the first day of camp.

"Nothing is major," Bugel said. "Nobody is out for the year."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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