'Rejuvenated' Redskins buoyed by state of NFC East

'Rejuvenated' Redskins buoyed by state of NFC East

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Washington's Pierre Garcon, Jammal Brown and Brandon Meriweather walked off the field Monday and gave self-assessments of their injuries.

The players sorely missed by the Redskins this season were back at practice following the bye, part of an overall feeling of renewal for a team heartened by the collective struggles of the NFC East.

``I think everybody is refreshed, and they're looking forward to the second half of the season,'' coach Mike Shanahan said. ``And you could see they were a lot fresher, rejuvenated and hopefully ready to go.''

After losing what the coach had called a ``must-win'' game before the break - and then suggesting the playoffs were out of reach and it was time to play out the string - Shanahan now says there's no margin of error as the Redskins (3-6) prepare to host the Philadelphia Eagles in the first of three consecutive division games.

``The way the chips are falling in our division, we still can control our own destiny,'' defensive end Stephen Bowen said. ``If we win these next three, we're right back on top of the division. It's crazy that these games are happening like this, but it's giving us the opportunity.''

It would help if the team could get Garcon, Brown and Meriweather fully healthy and somewhere close to top form. Perhaps Garcon could be the true No. 1 receiver currently missing from the attack. Perhaps Brown at right tackle could buy more time for agile rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. Perhaps Meriweather at safety could be a bandage for one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.

Of the three, Meriweather was the most optimistic about his chances of playing against the Eagles. He's been sidelined all season with multiple setbacks in his recovery from a sprained left knee, watching helplessly as the defense has allowed eight passes of 40-plus yards. He joked that if he does finally get to play, he'll walk right up to the press box in full uniform a few minutes before kickoff to make sure everyone knows.

``I just want to have fun, man,'' Meriweather said. ``I think us going out there, we don't look like we're having fun. And I think when somebody comes in and we get to having fun, then I think all aspects of the game will go up.''

Garcon has been in pain since Week 1, when he tore a toe ligament in his right foot. He's played in two games since but wasn't effective. Monday was his first practice in a month, and he's doing his best to try to avoid surgery - which wouldn't even be guaranteed to fix the problem anyway.

``It's a pain every time - walking, running, cutting,'' Garcon said. ``It's a pain all the time.''

Shanahan was guarded about Garcon's chances of playing this week. The coach will know more after a more rigorous practice Wednesday.

``I know it's painful for him, but he wanted to work through it today,'' Shanahan said. ``And we'll find out over the next few days exactly where he's at.''

Brown practiced for the first time since his latest hip injury, a torn ligament that required surgery in late August. He remains on the physically unable to perform list and will need time to work himself back into football shape.

``I started to feel lonely for a while, but now I'm back on the field with my teammates,'' Brown said. ``I'm eager to see after a week or so how it feels, but I feel good. It was a great day for me.''

Given their three-game losing streak, a defense that can't stop anybody and an offense that has slacked off its early torrid pace, the Redskins normally would have no business harboring any kind of realistic thoughts about the postseason.

But the NFC East has become a weekly horror show. The first-place New York Giants (6-4) have lost back-to-back games, including an 18-point defeat to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday. The other three teams are 7-14 outside the division.

The Redskins might be teetering, but they're practically stable compared to the Eagles, who have lost five straight amid persistent questions about the futures of coach Andy Reid and quarterback Michael Vick. Vick might not play Sunday because of a concussion, which would give rookie third-round pick Nick Foles his first NFL start.

``We've still got opportunities, for sure,'' tight end Logan Paulsen said. ``Because our record is what it is, you do have to watch the standings a little bit. At this point, it's kind of a good reminder to say, `Hey, we're still in it.'''


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Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

Wizards drop to precarious position in close Eastern Conference playoff race

As if they needed a reminder, the Wizards saw firsthand on Wednesday night just how much can change in a short period of time in the Eastern Conference playoff race where just two games separate the No. 3 and No. 6 teams.

That No. 6 team is now your Washington Wizards, who began the day in fourth place but lost their first game in four days on the same night both the Cavs and Sixers won theirs. 

The Wizards lost to the Spurs on Wednesday and managed only 90 points, their fewest since Jan. 22. It was a lackluster performance in a game the Wizards needed to treat with urgency. 


The Spurs sure did.

"We've gotta have a better mentality coming into games," guard Bradley Beal said. "The Spurs were fighting for playoff seeding just like we were."

The Wizards have now lost six of their last 10, yet all those games have come against teams currently holding playoff spots. Considering John Wall reamins out with a left knee injury, it's hard to fault them too much when they are staying afloat just fine in the big picture.

The problem is that the closer they get to the end of the season, the more these losses are magnified. They amount to missed opportunities, some bigger than others.

That was not lost on Beal, who considered the alternative. If the Wizards had beaten the Spurs, they would be sitting in fourth, two spots higher, and just a game-and-a-half out of third.

"Every time we have a chance to move up, we take two steps back," Beal lamented.


The Wizards are in a high stakes part of the standings where plenty is in the balance. They are fighting for home court advantage, something they would get in the third or fourth spots. And who they match up with will be paramount.

By falling to sixth, the Wizards are currently in line to play the Cleveland Cavaliers. Though the Pacers and Sixers are also good teams, they don't have LeBron James. Avoiding him and the Cavs would be ideal for the Wizards.

Beal has even bigger worries than that. He noted after the loss in San Antonio that they could fall even further if they aren't careful. They are now just a game-and-a-half up on the seventh-place Heat. 

"We've gotta realize what's at stake, man. The way we're going, we could keep dropping and mess around and be eighth. We've gotta do whatever it takes to win," he said.

The Wizards should be fine, if the previous two months are any indication. But Wednesday night was another example of how precarious things are for them this season in the tightly-packed Eastern Conference.


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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

NBC Sports Washington

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: How does Brooks Orpik really impact the Caps?

No player on the Caps gets more scrutiny than defenseman Brooks Orpik. While the analytics aren't kind when he's on the ice, we got to see what the Caps looked like without him when he was scratched against the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday and...well, his loss was noticeable.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir discuss what Orpik's true impact on the Capitals really is both on and off the ice on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast. Plus, they also talk about John Carlson's monster season and Barry Trotz's new strategy for the goalies.

Listen to the latest episode in the player below or here on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.