Redskins lose RB Hightower for season, Moss for 5 to 7 weeks

ASHBURN, Va. -- From healthy, first-place surprise to battered and struggling, the Washington Redskins had their fortunes take another dive Monday when running back Tim Hightower was declared out for the season with a torn knee ligament and wide receiver Santana Moss underwent hand surgery that's expected to sideline him for 5 to 7 weeks.

That makes it five starters lost to significant injuries over the last two weeks, coinciding with a two-game losing streak and a quarterback switch.

The Redskins (3-3), who were sitting so pretty after winning three of their first four games, are on their heels. Little seems to be going right, and some of the misfortune truly is out of the norm. London Fletcher -- who never has missed a game in his 14-year NFL career -- has a hamstring injury that might finally get him off the field, and demoted quarterback Rex Grossman is in the hospital with pneumonia.

"We've got a lot of young players," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "We're going to get a chance to see how much talent they do (have), and how quickly they can improve.

"And, hopefully, it's quick."

Hightower is the team's leading rusher. Moss is the top wideout. With the injury-induced shuffling along the offensive line, there now are just four offensive starters -- tight end Fred Davis, wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, right guard Chris Chester and right tackle Jammal Brown -- still manning their same positions from the beginning of the season.

Hightower and Moss were hurt during Sunday's 33-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Hightower's left knee buckled when he tried to make a cut during a 4-yard carry during the third quarter, ending his season with 321 yards on 84 carries.

Ryan Torain and fourth-round draft pick Roy Helu will try to make up the slack, although neither has Hightower's locker-room leadership or ability to pick up a blitz.

Moss, who has 25 catches for 301 yards, broke his left hand during the first half of Sunday's game and had three pins inserted into the area around his index finger Monday. That leaves Gaffney, who has a team-high 361 receiving yards, and either Anthony Armstrong or fifth-round pick Niles Paul as the starting tandem for this weekend's game against the Buffalo Bills (4-2) at Toronto.

Fletcher, the heart and soul of the defense, left the loss to the Panthers early. His streak of 214 consecutive games might be in danger.

"I don't think it's that serious," Shanahan said. "But we'll find out more on Wednesday."

Among those already on the sideline: Tight end Chris Cooley, left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, all hurt during the previous week's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Lichtensteiger is out for the season with torn knee ligaments, Cooley is sidelined indefinitely with a broken finger and is having his balky knee re-examined, and Williams is week to week with a sprained ankle.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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