'Skins left with Brown, Elewonibi Injuries open spots for young linemen

August 18, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

CARLISLE, Pa. -- There was a time not long ago when Ray Brown and Mo Elewonibi wondered about their futures with the Washington Redskins.

"We sat around talking about when we were going to get a chance to play and what we'd do when we did get a chance," Brown said yesterday.

They will get the answer this season when they team up as the left side of Washington's offensive line.

"The time is now. It's right up on us now," Brown said.

Brown played in only one game in 1990-1991 after being picked up from the Phoenix Cardinals on Plan B in 1989. Elewonibi spent the 1990 and 1991 seasons on injured reserve after being drafted on the third round in 1990.

Brown crashed into the starting lineup midway through last season when Joe Jacoby went down and is now the starting left guard; Elewonibi became the starting left tackle Monday, when the Redskins found out Jim Lachey is out for the year with a knee injury.

Nobody is giving Elewonibi more encouragement than Brown.

"I just hope he doesn't get caught up in the thing about, well, you're replacing Jim Lachey," Brown said. "No way you can replace a Jim Lachey. The guy is probably the best left tackle in the NFL. He's not Jim Lachey. He's a Mo Elewonibi. [He has to] do what Mo can do. He can do some good things."

If there's one thing Elewonibi has going for him, it's that this isn't the first time he has gone through this. He faced it a year ago when Lachey went down with a knee injury against the Denver Broncos in the fifth game of the season.

Elewonibi, who had practiced only two days after coming back from injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, was thrust into the game and did a good job; he started the next four games.

"It's the same as last year. I was the flavor of the month. I was the new guy with the weird name," he said.

Elewonibi went out with a knee injury of his own in his fourth start, but the Redskins thought enough of him to make him their top backup at tackle this year.

They say they're going to stick with him and won't make any immediate personnel moves. Two standout left tackles, Gary Zimmerman of the Minnesota Vikings (who technically says he's retired) and Paul Gruber of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are holding out, but they are seeking contracts in the $3 million range and the Redskins are already anticipating salary cap problems.

They may add a veteran backup if one becomes available when teams start cutting, but they now plan to line up against the Dallas Cowboys in the Monday night opener with Elewonibi facing Charles Haley. Jacoby and Jeff Bostic will be the top veteran backups.

"You can't start out any better than that. National TV. Monday night. Everybody will be watching," Elewonibi said. "Of course, I'm going to be intimidated. It'll go away after the first hit.

"I had a good run [last year] playing against [Chris] Doleman and [Clyde] Simmons. What little experience I picked up will help me."

The Redskins are convinced he can do the job -- if he can stay healthy.

"I'm going to will myself not to get hurt," he said.

Coach Richie Petitbon said: "You hate to believe in something like [being] injury prone. But if things happen over and over again, you wonder."

"The last thing you want to be labeled in this league is injury prone," Brown said. "That's a terrible sin, especially for a lineman."

Elewonibi is encouraged that he has made it through almost five weeks of camp without an injury.

"My future is in my hands. I can go as far as I want to go," he said.

NOTES: Practice was called off after about 30 minutes because of lightning during a thunderstorm . . . Now that Elewonibi is starting, second-year OL Darryl Moore has a chance to make it as a backup . . . Lachey flew to Los Angeles yesterday for another knee exam . . . A limited number of tickets are still available for the final home exhibition against the New York Jets on Aug. 27. They can be ordered by calling (202) 546-2222.

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