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VA Pilot:For struggling Redskins, these truly are painful days


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For struggling Redskins, these truly are painful days

By JIM DUCIBELLA, The Virginian-Pilot

© November 9, 2003

Champ Bailey was convinced it couldn’t happen.

Fred Smoot was convinced it would.

Two weeks ago, every time Smoot made a public pronouncement that he would play against Dallas with a fractured sternum and badly bruised chest, Bailey chalked it up as the ramblings of a delusional man.

“I ruled him out all the way until Friday,” Bailey recalled. “I was amazed he got out there.”

Smoot, who had never been seriously injured in high school, college or his first two pro seasons, started against the Cowboys as promised. He hurled his body at Dallas players as if it were the last game of his career, finishing with six unassisted tackles.

“I think it has a lot to do with your upbringing,” Smoot said with a smile. “I’m a good country boy, and you know how we feel. I don’t think I know how to accept injury.”

Although he reaggravated the chest injury, Smoot will return to the field today when the slumping Washington Redskins (3-5) host the Seattle Seahawks. He’ll be joined by almost all of the other 13 players the Redskins listed on one of the largest injury reports in recent team history.

Center Larry Moore has been ruled out because of a chipped bone in his foot.

Ladell Betts probably won’t play. His arm is broken. Chad Morton probably won’t play either. His foot was still encased in a hard plastic boot late last week.

For those who play, the game won’t be contested just on the field but also in their heads.

“It always hurts in practice, but once the game starts, the pain always seems to go away,” said Moore, who thought he had a badly bruised foot until X-rays proved otherwise. “You get out there, the adrenaline starts pumping and you just take it from there.”

In barely one full season as a starter, Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey already has the reputation as one of football’s toughest players. The Redskins don’t say that; in fact, coach Steve Spurrier laments the fact that Washington’s poor protection forces Ramsey to prove his grit weekly.

Today’s opponent extols Ramsey’s mettle, even though he’s never seen him play in person.

“Around the league, if you ask who the tougher quarterbacks are — Brett Favre and Patrick Ramsey,” Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “A lot of people respect his toughness.

“It’s tough to play at a high level when you’re in pain. That’s one thing you can’t coach or teach or learn in practice. When that kid gets healthy ... I think he’s going to be a great player.”

Ramsey has been sacked 26 times this season, second in the league. Last week, he left the field with a dislocated left pinky finger. He came back later only to suffer a badly bruised left forearm.

“I just ask myself an honest question: 'Can I go out there and play?’ If I can, I go,” Ramsey said. “When my finger was dislocated, I couldn’t do that because I couldn’t take the snap. Once it was taped up, it didn’t feel that bad.

Later, they wanted to X-ray my arm before they let me go back out. Once it was determined that it wasn’t broken ...”

Ramsey finished the game, never seeing the touchdown pass he launched to Taylor Jacobs with 2:30 to play. He was buried in the Texas Stadium turf by safety Roy Williams an instant after releasing the ball.

“Every time he gets hit, we wince,” Spurrier said. “I feel like I’m getting hit. We’re trying not to let that happen, but we aren’t doing a good job with protection.”

Bailey has played much of the season with wrist and shoulder injuries. Receiver Laveranues Coles was knocked unconscious twice in the same game and missed only a few plays. Teammates had to help linebacker LaVar Arrington remove his jersey after last week’s game his body was so bruised.

“If I’m hurting as I’m standing at the line of scrimmage, I zone the pain out and think about making this play,” Smoot said. “I think about what I studied during the week. Once that whistles blows and they come out and show a formation, my mind goes right to that formation and what it’s telling me. I’m thinking, 'Is this going to be a run or a pass?’ I get into my football thinking.”

Several players said they are amazed at the amount of pain their bodies withstand on game days. They often don’t believe the trainer the next day when he tells them the severity of the injuries they ignored. There are no tricks; it’s simply mind over matter.

“You really have to let your mind take over if your body’s not working,” said Bailey. “You’ve got to be wise about how to take care of yourself and protect yourself. When I go out there, I tell myself not to think of injury. I tell myself it’s time to put it all on the line.”

Reach Jim Ducibella at 446-2364 or at jim.ducibella@pilotonline.com

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