Redskins pin hopes on Rypien Injured QB hasn't played in a month


The Washington Redskins season appears to rest on the tender right knee of quarterback Mark Rypien.

In the wake of coach Richie Petitbon's decision to yank Cary Conklin for veteran Rich Gannon in the third quarter of the 17-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins Monday night, the 1-3 Redskins hope they can get get Rypien back for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

They haven't lost four straight since 1981, when Joe Gibbs started 0-5 in his first year as head coach.

Rypien, who hasn't worn shoulder pads since he suffered the knee injury a month ago in the second game of the year against the Phoenix Cardinals, will try to practice today.

If he can practice and his knee doesn't swell later in the week, he'll start.

Although Rypien said he expects to play, the Redskins have no idea if he's right.

"Until he gets on the field, we won't know. Nobody knows. I don't think he knows," Petitbon said.

Rypien went outside for the first time Friday and did some throwing, but Petitbon dismissed that workout as "pitch and catch."

Complicating the situation is the fact the injury was to his right knee. Since he plants his foot with that knee when he throws, it could be more difficult than if the injury were to his left knee.

All that trainer Bubba Tyer can say is that Rypien is "ready for the next step," which is to try to practice.

If Rypien can't go, Petitbon is likely to give Gannon his first start in a Redskins uniform.

Although Petitbon refused to make an announcement ("We'll try and keep the Giants guessing on that one"), all indications are that he'll go with the veteran.

Petitbon appears to be leery of young quarterbacks.

"I think what you have in Cary is a young quarterback. Young quarterbacks, no matter how you shake them, are still young quarterbacks. They do some things very well and they do some things you're not happy with," Petitbon said.

Conklin was stoic about his fate.

"I'm definitely frustrated. I guess that's the word," he said.

He said it was the first time in his career that he'd been benched.

"I guess it happens to the best of them sometimes. It's just one of those things. Nothing to get down about. I'm just going to keep battling back, keep my head up and keep working hard," he said.

When Conklin was asked if he could have anticipated being benched, he said: "Sure, if I was having a real bad game or threw a bunch of interceptions. That wasn't the case, I don't think. I was surprised. That's a decision a head coach makes sometimes. You have to live with it."

Rypien had completed 13 of 22 for 109 yards when he got the hook. He wasn't intercepted, but the Redskins were trailing 14-3.

He said the benching won't hurt his confidence.

"I still have all the confidence in the world," he said.

Petitbon telegraphed that he wasn't happy with Conklin in August when the Redskins traded for Gannon.

They said at the time the move was made because they were unhappy with third-stringer Chris Hakel, who was later cut, and was no reflection on Conklin. It's now obvious, though, that Petitbon wanted a veteran backup behind Rypien.

Petitbon also didn't show much confidence in Conklin when he virtually ran out the clock at the end of the first half even though the Redskins had a third-and-four at their 38 with a minute left. Petitbon let the clock run, and by the time Conklin threw a first-down pass, there were 26 seconds left. They got to the Miami 42 with a second left in the first half, but Chip Lohmiller just missed a 59-yard field goal.

Petitbon defended the move to play it safe at the end of the first half because the Redskins were due to receive the second-half kickoff.

"The worst thing we could have done was give the ball back to [Dan] Marino [before halftime]," he said.

Although Gannon put together a 75-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and has the mobility to scramble, he couldn't move the team when the Redskins had two possessions starting on their 7- and 29-yard lines in the last four minutes of the game.

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