HERNDON, Va. -- Now that running back Earnest Byner is the latest addition to the Washington Redskins list of walking wounded, it's time for them to send out another call for the reserves.
"The good news is we're winning ballgames. The bad news is we're starting to run out of bodies. We're going to have to have some guys come off the bench," coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday after Byner was declared out of Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers with a mild to moderate knee sprain.
Trainer Bubba Tyer said Byner would be out from one to three weeks, so he wouldn't go on the four-week injured reserve list.
Meanwhile, Gibbs said he'd give rookie running back Ricky Ervins his first start against the Steelers. Veteran Gerald Riggs will back him up.
"I think Gerald's going to take a major role in the game. Both of them are going to have to share a lot of the responsibility," Gibbs said.
Riggs lost the backup job to Ervins earlier in the season, but because Ervins will handle the passing downs, Riggs will relieve him of some of the burden on running downs.
Tight end Ron Middleton, who has a bruised left calf and a tender fibula, also may miss the Steelers game. John Brandes may take his place.
But Gibbs hopes that the other injured players -- offensive lineman Russ Grimm (ankle) and defensive linemen Charles Mann (knee) and Tim Johnson (neck) -- will be ready by the end of the week.
He also hopes that defensive lineman Eric Williams (neck) and offensive lineman Jim Lachey (knee), who sat out the Atlanta game, may return.
Despite their 10-0 start, the Redskins have been fighting injuries all season. They opened the season with cornerback Anthony Johnson and tight end Don Warren on the injured reserve list, and they missed the first five and six games, respectively.
Meanwhile, four other key players -- offensive lineman Ed Simmons, strong safety Alvin Walton, defensive lineman Markus Koch and defensive back Terry Hoage -- have gone on IR during the season.
Gibbs gives credit to the Redskins' depth for overcoming the injuries.
"I don't think we're a dominating team. I think we do have good depth. I think that showed up because players have stepped in and played for us and helped us," he said.
The offensive line is one area where the depth has been particularly valuable. Mark Adickes had to go in at the critical left tackle spot with Simmons, Lachey and Grimm ailing Sunday and didn't give up a sack. The Redskins have given up four sacks this year and have a shot at breaking the record of seven set by the Miami Dolphins in 1988.
Jerry Glanville, the Atlanta coach, had an explanation for the offensive line's success in the 56-17 victory over the Falcons Sunday.
"Their offensive line tackles better than our secondary," Glanville said.
Jim Hanifan, the Redskins offensive line coach, denied the Redskins were doing any illegal tackling on the line.
"It sounds to me like he's a crybaby. I thought he was a cowboy. Elvis [Glanville is an Elvis Presley fan] wouldn't be proud of him," Hanifan said. "I guess the guy has to come up with something."
Although Hanifan coached the 1975 St. Louis Cardinals offensive line that featured four Pro Bowl players, including Dan Dierdorf, he said he's never seen a line with such depth.
"They're very intelligent group and really a dedicated group. They're an epitome of what offensive linemen should be like," he said.
They also help explain why the Redskins still have a shot a perfect season.
NOTES: Special teams coach Wayne Sevier was upset that the Redskins had 2 punts blocked Sunday. He blamed it on complacency and a lack of intensity. Brian Mitchell and Terry Orr missed the blocks on the 2 plays. . . . Gibbs said that President Bush sent him a letter last week that he read to the team congratulating the Redskins on their victory over Houston. Gibbs said the president said he usually roots for the Redskins when they're not playing the Oilers.
The Redskins' major injuries this season:
Name. . . . . . . . P. . . Injury. . . . . Games missed
Anthony Johnson . . CB . . Wrist . . . . . IR, missed 1st 5 games
Don Warren. . . . . TE . . Leg . . . . . . IR, missed 1st 6 games
Ed Simmons. . . . . OT . . Knee. . . . . . IR Sept. 11, missed past 8 games Alvin Walton. . . . S. . . Shoulder. . . . IR Sept. 11, missed past 8 games Markus Koch . . . . DL . . Knee. . . . . . IR Oct. 9, missed past 5 games
Terry Hoage . . . . S. . . Arm . . . . . . IR Oct. 26, missed past 3 games Eric Williams . . . DL . . Neck. . . . . . Inactive last week
Jim Lachey. . . . . OL . . Knee. . . . . . Inactive last week
Where do you go from 10-0?
The Redskins are the 14th NFL team to start 10-0, a feat also accomplished by 1 AFL team. Here's how the other 14 teams finished:
Year... Team...... ..... Start... Final... Finish
1972... Miami..... ..... 17-0.... 17-0.... Won Super Bowl
1934... Chicago... ..... 13-0.... 13-1.... Lost championship game
1985... Chicago... ..... 12-0.... 18-1.... Won Super Bowl