Playoff health is Byner's new goal Sore back derailed 1,000-yard bid

December 29, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ASHBURN, Va. -- When Earnest Byner stood on the sideline nursing his sore back in the fourth quarter Saturday, several teammates told him they wanted him to get back on the field.

"They said, 'We'll drag you for those 2 yards,' " Byner said yesterday.

Once the Washington Redskins took a 20-14 lead with 1:57 left, they were hoping the defense would stop the Los Angeles Raiders and Byner, who was stuck at 998 yards, would get one more carry in the final seconds.

Instead, Vince Evans drove the Raiders 80 yards for a touchdown that won the game, 21-20, with 13 seconds left.

Mark Rypien then threw two desperation passes before time ran out and Byner -- who injured his back late in the second quarter -- missed his chance to become the first Redskin ever to gain 1,000 yards in three straight seasons and the 11th in league history to reach the milestone at age 30 or over.

"After the game, I could hardly walk so maybe it's best I didn't go back in," Byner said. "With the way things happened, you have to accept it."

Byner needed only 37 yards going into the game to get the mark and he remembered that a reporter told him last week that he was a lock to get it.

"That flashed in my mind. Nothing is guaranteed. The next play is not guaranteed. It's a blessing to get 998, but obviously for the guys [offensive linemen] and myself, I would have liked to get the thousand and the record, but you have to move on," he said.

Byner's close miss was a microcosm of the Redskins' entire season. They were just a bit off all year. They finished at 9-7, but they could have been 12-4 if not for four fourth-quarter plays that went awry -- Rypien missing Gary Clark in the end zone against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Raiders and Robert Massey twice intercepting Rypien in the fourth period in Phoenix and running for touchdowns.

"A couple of plays here and there and we're sitting pretty, but now we've got a long road ahead of us," Byner said.

The Redskins, though, feel they finally got the bounce to go their way when the Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday to get them in the playoffs.

As they look forward to Saturday's opening playoff game against the Vikings, they're putting the past behind them.

"We're having sort of a second life or a second breath," Byner said. "That's definitely our attitude."

Byner is one of several players who's hoping his injuries heal before the team resumes practice tomorrow and they'll find out how many of them can take the field.

The Redskins already have lost wide receiver Desmond Howard (separated shoulder) and safety David Gulledge (dislocated -Z kneecap) and aren't expecting cornerback Darrell Green (heel) and wide receiver Ricky Sanders (ankle) to be able to practice until the end of the week if they can get any work at all.

And there are players such as guard Mark Schlereth and defensive lineman Charles Mann who'll need knee surgery and usually don't practice, but keep on playing.

Despite all the injuries, Gibbs is eager for a playoff shot and doesn't like the theory that the Redskins don't deserve to be in the playoffs after losing their last two games.

"We played the toughest schedule and all the rules say we're in. I've been 10-6 and not been in [in both 1985 and 1989]," he said.

The only way the Redskins can get back to the Super Bowl is to win three straight road games.

In the four years they went to the Super Bowl under Gibbs, they won nine playoff games -- eight at home. But Gibbs preaches that they've done it the other way and now it's time to try it this way.

"Let's take our shot," he said.

Byner, who hopes to be ready to go, said, "It'll be a one-game season. Hopefully, you'll see some desperation in our play."

NOTES: With Howard, who'll undergo shoulder surgery, and Gulledge out, Gibbs is unhappy about the rule that he can add only one player (CB Martin Mayhew or WR Stephen Hobbs is likely to get the call) from the injured list for each playoff game. "I think if you've got two guys hurt, you should be able to bring up two guys," Gibbs said.

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