The Washington Redskins have spent roughly $100 million to become the deepest team in football, yet they keep getting stung by injuries at positions where they are thinnest.
The latest to go down is center Cory Raymer, who has started 37 consecutive regular season and playoff games. Raymer hobbled out the front door on crutches Tuesday after an exam revealed two partially torn ligaments in his right knee.
"I think in about a month we'll have an idea of how it's coming along," trainer Bubba Tyer said. "The hope is getting him back on the field in six weeks."
That rules Raymer out for the final two exhibition games and the first four games of the regular season at least. If the knee has not sufficiently healed after a month, Raymer may require surgery that could sideline him for the season.
Raymer was hurt when his leg was trapped under a pile near the end of Monday's practice. He joins defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson and kicker Brett Conway as the most significant injuries of training camp. Trainers are hoping to have Wilkinson ready for the regular-season opener, while Conway is slowly working his way back after missing two exhibition games.
Centers are tough to replace because they are responsible for the blocking calls at the line of scrimmage. Raymer's backup is Mark Fischer, a 1998 fifth-round pick who played tackle at Purdue. His only non-exhibition game for the Redskins was an appearance on special teams in the playoff loss at Tampa in January.
"I'm trying to stay calm," Fischer said. "I've played both nervous and calm. I play better calm."
Also taking turns hiking the ball Tuesday were rookie Ryan Kalich and off-season free agent signee Jay Leeuwenburg, a utility lineman who started at center for two years with Indianapolis. However, Leeuwenburg is expected to start at guard for the season opener against Carolina, while Tre Johnson serves a one-game suspension.
In other words, the Redskins will be missing two starting offensive linemen when they face a Panthers defensive line that now includes Reggie White and Eric Swann.
"You sit there and say Cory's a tough guy to replace. But only because you're used to seeing him there for 37 straight games," offensive line coach Russ Grimm said. "I feel Fish is capable of doing it. This is his third year, and we're going to find out what he can do with the first bunch."
Raymer was a second-round draft pick in 1995, but he broke his akle four days into his first training camp. A knee injury followed by an automobile accident wiped out most of his 1996 season, but he regained the starting job in December 1997 and has not missed a start since.
Raymer signed a new contract, worth $1.5 million over two years, in February.
"We're going to miss Cory, don't get me wrong," guard Keith Sims said. "But we expect the guys behind him to step up."
To replace Wilkinson, who has a sprained knee, the Redskins have moved backup end Kenard Lang to tackle. Lang has played tackle in pass-rushing situations in the past, but his 277-pound frame looks small when he lines up as an every-down player in the middle of the line.
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