Washington Redskins wide receiver Michael Westbrook tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Sunday and will miss the remainder of the season, the team learned yesterday.
The Redskins moved quickly to replace him, reportedly agreeing to terms with veteran receiver and former Buffalo Bill Andre Reed.
Westbrook led the team in yards (1,191), catches (65) and touchdowns (nine) last season. His loss significantly hurts the Redskins' chances of a Super Bowl appearance, the team's goal since an off-season, free-agent spending spree and the signing of the Nos. 2 and 3 picks of the 2000 draft.
Irving Fryar, in his 17th NFL season, will start Monday night's home game against Dallas.
Westbrook hurt the knee in the third quarter of the Redskins' 15-10 loss to the Detroit Lions. Safety Ron Rice made the hit, but Westbrook was able to continue a few more plays before missing the fourth quarter.
"I kind of feel like I'm letting my teammates down," Westbrook said. "I know it wasn't my fault. Who could predict an injury?"
Redskins coach Norv Turner said he spoke yesterday with Westbrook, who is scheduled to have surgery in a couple of weeks.
"He obviously is very disappointed," Turner said. "He has worked awfully hard to get to this point where he is playing at this high level.
"He has been a big part of this offense. The thing that is disappointing for me is for Michael. I think he has grown each year."
Westbrook had nine catches for 103 yards this season. Last year was the first one he remained injury-free. Westbrook had never played in more than 11 games in his four previous years because of injuries.
Turner gambled by keeping only four receivers on the active roster. The Redskins promoted receiver Derrius Thompson from the practice squad for Sunday's game to replace the suspended Mark Carrier.
But he is not yet ready to see significant game time. That should open things up for Reed, who reportedly signed a one-year contract worth $500,000, though he will not be paid for the first two games. He had spent this preseason with the Denver Broncos but asked for his release the day before the start of the regular season because he did not feel he would play enough.
Reed played 15 seasons in Buffalo and is the most prolific receiver in team history. He started every game for the Bills last season before the team released him, along with defensive end Bruce Smith and running back Thurman Thomas. Reed was second behind Eric Moulds on the Bills with 52 catches for 536 yards last year.
Fryar, who turns 38 in 16 days, is not the long-term answer as the No. 2 receiver behind Connell.
While he has had an outstanding NFL career and is still playing well, Fryar's age would make it difficult for him to start and play the majority of every game. The same could be said for Reed. Last year, in which he came out of retirement to play for the Redskins, was Fryar's worst statistically. He caught 26 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns.
Eventually, he and Reed, 36, could split time as the No. 2 receiver. James Thrash will continue to return punts and kickoffs and come in as a third-down receiver.
Connell will have the biggest adjustments as teams will now game plan to stop him. Connell had a breakout year last season setting career highs in catches (62), yards (1,132) and touchdowns (seven).
"James Thrash and Irving Fryar, [have] worked in our offense more," Turner said. "They're going to have to step up and make the plays [when] they get an opportunity to make [them]. Derrius Thompson will be one of our receivers, and we're looking to see who else is available."
Until Reed is ready, the Redskins could use cornerback Champ Bailey or Deion Sanders. Bailey practiced at receiver last week, and Sanders was a part-time wideout while in Dallas.
Westbrook's injury comes at a time when the Redskins are experiencing problems on offense. Quarterback Brad Johnson threw four interceptions Sunday and running back Stephen Davis was held to 59 yards on 17 carries.
"I don't see our offense as unraveling," Turner said. "What we haven't done, which is your primary objective, is score points. It is easy to see why we haven't scored points. [But] we've moved the ball extremely well in both games. I thought we moved the ball awfully well against Detroit, which has one of the better defenses.
"It still comes down to teams that handle adversity the best. We opened up with a win. We lost our second game. That's adversity. We lost a very good football player. Other teams have lost players. You have to find a way to overcome it and handle the situation."
A .500 start two games into the season was not the way many thought the Redskins would open. Owner Daniel M. Snyder will spend over $100 million in salaries this season after attracting some of the game's premier free agents in quarterback Jeff George, Smith, cornerback Sanders and Carrier.
The investments did not pay off Sunday. Sanders said he played the worst game of his career, Carrier did not play because of his suspension and Smith drew a 15-yard personal foul late in the game. George did not take a snap.