Redskins dealing with a rash of offensive line injuries

ASHBURN, Va. -- Trainer Bubba Tyer can't remember anything like it, and he's been with the Washington Redskins for 36 years. Nor can Joe Gibbs, who has spent 24 seasons in the NFL and is in the Hall of Fame.

The Redskins on Monday were dealing with the aftereffects of losing three offensive linemen to injuries in the same game. Todd Wade, Casey Rabach and Stephon Heyer all went down in the 17-14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, further debilitating a line already playing without ailing stalwarts Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas.

"It's a very unusual situation," Gibbs said. "It never happened to me before."

It takes five players to make up an offensive line, and the Redskins usually have only seven linemen active on game day. Obviously, the math didn't work Sunday. When Heyer was hurt late in the fourth quarter, an already injured Wade had to return and play left tackle even though he was essentially playing on one leg.

"It was crazy," said Mike Pucillo, who replaced Rabach at center. "I didn't even know Stephon was hurt. And then I was like, 'Dang.' At that point, I didn't even know who was going to go in."

Now the Redskins have to play a numbers game to see if they will have enough linemen to have a practice on Wednesday and, more importantly, what they need to do to be able to field a team for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.

"We need to look at everything there," Gibbs said. "What I'm praying is that several of them are going to be able to bounce back and play."

Tyer, the team's longtime trainer, said Wade and Rabach have strained right groins, and Heyer has a strained left hamstring. While it's early in the week, Tyer was somewhat more positive about Rabach, whose strain was classified as mild.

"I think we're going to be OK with Casey," Tyer said.

That's critical news because, as the center, Rabach is in charge of making the blocking calls at the line of scrimmage. Also, he had been the glue of the line, the last unscathed member of the original starting five from the beginning of training camp.

If Wade and Heyer can't play, the Redskins would consider moving Jason Fabini to right tackle and playing recently signed Rick DeMulling at right guard. Another option is to make a two-way player out of defensive lineman Lorenzo Alexander, who took some snaps with the offensive line during offseason workouts.

The Redskins could promote either of two offensive linemen from the practice squad, Justin Geisinger or Kili Lefotu, although Lefotu is dealing with a legal matter after being arrested Friday night following a disturbance at a local restaurant. Gibbs and his coaches will also scan the ranks of unemployed linemen to see if there is anyone they can sign.

"Well, of course you'd rather be able to stay in one position the whole season, but that's not the way it always works," said Pucillo, who also could be moved to guard. "That what we get paid for, to be versatile and be able to step in. A lot of us have been together for a while. There's some growing pains, but I think we'll do fine."

Perhaps, but patched and re-patched offensive lines are notorious for springing leaks. The Redskins rushed for only 33 yards in the second half Sunday, and quarterback Jason Campbell was sacked twice after halftime and was consistently under pressure. Gibbs won three Super Bowls because he had the Hogs, who were seemingly invincible after playing together forever, but now there's so much in-and-out that it feels as if someone left the gate unlocked at the sty.

The injuries Sunday were part of a loss that, by all rights, should have been a win. The Redskins (3-3) had the statistical edge over the Packers in nearly every category and the defense throttled Brett Favre for the most part, but Washington receiver Santana Moss happened to have the worst game of his career.

Moss dropped two passes, fumbled to give Green Bay the winning touchdown and pulled himself from the game, citing a cramping hamstring and his own ineffective play.

Tyer said Moss will be fine, and Gibbs said he's counting on the receiver to make a "ton of plays" for the team in the weeks to come.

"I have the absolute most confidence in that guy," Gibbs said.

Notes: Gibbs said the coach-to-quarterback helmet transmitter malfunctioned and was intermittent throughout the game, forcing the Redskins to use hand signals to give Campbell the plays. "We lost communications to our quarterback," Gibbs said. "You're talking about something that's extremely hard to overcome." ... The Redskins defense held on to its No. 3 overall ranking, behind Pittsburgh and New England.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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