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WP: Status of Redskins Cornerback Unsure for Sunday


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Smoot Suffers Mild Concussion

Status of Redskins Cornerback Unsure for Sunday

By Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Friday, September 19, 2003; Page D01


Cornerback Fred Smoot was knocked temporarily unconscious when he collided with safety Matt Bowen while participating in a passing drill during the Washington Redskins' practice yesterday. Smoot suffered a mild concussion, team officials said, and may not play Sunday against the New York Giants at FedEx Field.

Smoot is scheduled to be reevaluated today. If he is sidelined, the Redskins would turn to third cornerback Rashad Bauman, who sat out the second half of the victory Sunday at Atlanta because of a strained hamstring muscle, to replace him in the starting lineup. The only other cornerback on the roster is rookie Ade Jimoh, and the team's coaches began working some of their safeties at cornerback as a contingency.

"You can't replace Fred Smoot," said the Redskins' other starting cornerback, Champ Bailey. "You can't replace his talent, his energy. He's one of those guys who's one of a kind. It's definitely going to hurt this team. . . . I think [bauman] is ready to do it. He's not Fred, and everybody knows that. But he's a quality corner, and he can go in and get the job done."

Smoot was taken by ambulance from Redskins Park to a nearby hospital for tests, including an X-ray of his neck and an MRI exam. He was released late yesterday.

"When we got out there, he was unconscious temporarily," said Dean Kleinschmidt, the Redskins' head trainer. "The doctor will make the diagnosis, but it will be, I'm sure, diagnosed as a concussion. [smoot] had a headache when he came to. We felt it was the most appropriate thing to [place him on a board] and transport him to the hospital."

Smoot received a "direct hit to the head" and was unconscious for less than a minute, Kleinschmidt said. Teammates gathered around him worriedly as he initially remained motionless on the ground. But he regained consciousness and was talking and moving his arms and legs by the time he was placed in the ambulance, observers said.

"He had feeling," Kleinschmidt said. "Neurologically, he was intact. He could move his arms and legs. He could feel, squeeze and do all those things. He responded. He did not have amnesia. He was looking pretty good, but the appropriate thing we had to do with the hit to the head and being unconscious temporarily and having some pain in the back -- we decided the best thing to do was to move him" to a hospital.

Bailey said: "It happened real quick. When I saw him on the ground, he just wasn't moving. That was the scary part. . . . He was going in and out [of consciousness] a little bit. But once they took his facemask off and he was lying on his back, he looked like he was at least aware of what was going on. I looked at him, and he kind of smiled a little bit, so that was a good sign that he was okay."

The Redskins stopped their practice for several minutes.

"It's always scary to see a player get hurt like that," linebacker Jessie Armstead said, "but they say he's going to be all right. . . . I was just hoping he'd move his legs so I knew he was all right. He was on the ground for a little while."

Smoot and Bowen were covering wide receiver Cliff Russell during a drill and smashed into one another defending a pass from quarterback Rob Johnson. Redskins Coach Steve Spurrier called the play "an unfortunate collision" and said that "probably the ball should have been thrown somewhere else, but it was thrown down there."

Spurrier added: "We try to protect our players in practice. We're going to try to do a better job of avoiding collisions. We've all got to realize we're practicing against each other. It was just a very unfortunate accident. Hopefully Fred is going to be okay, but certainly it was a collision that we hope doesn't happen again. . . . Any time a player is knocked out, bonked upside the head and so forth, you take all precautions."

Bowen, who was reprimanded by Spurrier for a jarring hit on tailback Trung Canidate early in training camp, declined to comment.

The Redskins would like to start Bauman, a second-year pro who took over the No. 3 cornerback job for veteran Darrell Green late last season, if Smoot is not available Sunday. But Spurrier and defensive coordinator George Edwards said they first would have to monitor Bauman to make sure his hamstring is sufficiently healed. Bauman said he expected to play Sunday.

"I definitely don't want it [a starting assignment] this way," said Bauman, a third-round draft choice out of Oregon last year. "Hopefully Fred will be good. . . . My hamstring is a little sore, but at the same time, I need to be all right. It got a little bit better all of a sudden. I did a full practice [yesterday]. I got through it, and hopefully I'll be able to go do it on Sunday."

Jimoh, who was signed in April as an undrafted free agent out of Utah State, surrendered a 42-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter in Atlanta that created a few anxious moments down the stretch for the Redskins.

"You have to step up to the challenge," Jimoh said. "I got a lot of game time last week, and I've been practicing with the guys, learning a lot of stuff. Last week was a learning experience."

David Terrell, the team's starter at free safety for two seasons before losing the job in the preseason this year, began his career as a cornerback and perhaps could serve as an emergency fill-in. The Redskins started the Atlanta game in a peculiar defensive alignment, with only one cornerback (Bailey) and three safeties (Bowen, Ifeanyi Ohalete and Todd Franz) on the field.

Smoot said recently he thought he and Bailey, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, had emerged as the league's best cornerback tandem. The Redskins (2-0) are ranked sixth in the NFL in pass defense and second in total defense. But the Giants (1-1) have two capable wide receivers, Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard, to go with dangerous tight end Jeremy Shockey as targets for quarterback Kerry Collins.

"If Fred is out," Ohalete said, "it means we have to step up."

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