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Redskins already have taken a couple of hits

TRENT WILLIAMS Blind-side protector TRENT WILLIAMS Blind-side protector
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / December 8, 2011
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FOXBOROUGH - In a season rife with hard knocks, the Washington Redskins were dealt a double whammy this week.

On Tuesday, two days after the Redskins absorbed a 34-19 loss to the New York Jets to drop to 4-8, the NFL suspended two of Washington’s offensive starters - left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis - for the remainder of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

It was the second time the players had tested positive; they also failed tests during training camp.

It has been that kind of season for the beleaguered team and coach Mike Shanahan, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Broncos who has struggled to restore the Redskins to pigskin glory, going 6-10 in his first season last year.

Needing to win their four remaining games to finish .500, the Redskins now must prepare to host the Patriots Sunday without two impact offensive players. Williams is the blind-side protector of quarterback Rex Grossman, and Davis is the team’s leading receiver with 59 receptions for 796 yards.

Williams, out of Oklahoma, was the Redskins’ first-round pick (fourth overall) in the 2010 draft. Davis, a second-round pick out of Southern Cal in 2008, is in a contract year as an unrestricted free agent.

“Well, it’s always disappointing when you lose two players, especially two of your better players in Trent and Fred,’’ Shanahan said yesterday. “Disappointed that they didn’t pass the test and that they were doing what they weren’t supposed to be doing. You’re disappointed in that.

“They paid the consequences of that. Not only do they pay the consequences, but our team pays the consequences. You want our people to be accountable and they made a mistake.’’

The suspended players expressed remorse when they addressed the team yesterday at the practice facility in Ashburn, Va.

“They told [the team] how disappointed they were and I told them how disappointed I was in them for making that decision,’’ Shanahan said. “So that’s basically over now and it was addressed and now we basically move on.’’

Shanahan said either Sean Locklear, an eighth-year tackle out of North Carolina State, or Willie Smith, a rookie from East Carolina, would fill in for Williams. Tyler Polumbus, a third-year backup at left guard and right tackle, could also get thrown into the mix.

The absence of Williams could compromise Grossman’s protection against a Patriots team that will likely bring a formidable rush led by Andre Carter, who last year struggled as an outside linebacker in the Redskins’ 3-4 defense before he amicably parted ways with the team.

“He wanted an opportunity to go someplace, and we had talked about his ability to rush the quarterback,’’ Shanahan said. “We knew we couldn’t pay him what he was making, but we knew there would be somebody out there who would pay him what he deserved, or at least what we thought he deserved.

“So we let him go, just because he was such a class guy.’’

Carter found a perfect fit with the Patriots as a rush end in Bill Belichick’s 4-3 scheme. He leads the team with nine sacks.

“Obviously, he landed in a great organization,’’ Shanahan said, “and he’s doing a great job for them.’’

Not that it came as a surprise to the Redskins coach.

“I think he had 10 sacks the year before we got here,’’ Shanahan said. “It was a little different scheme. He’s a guy who’s always worked hard and I’ve been impressed with the way he’s been playing.’’

It was much different parting with Albert Haynesworth, who clashed with Shanahan before being traded to the Patriots July 29. Haynesworth wound up getting released by New England Nov. 8 and was claimed off waivers the next day by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“That was completely different,’’ Shanahan said. “Andre Carter was the most accountable guy. I mean, he’s a pro. Albert, it didn’t take long to figure out that he wasn’t buying in. So that was an easy decision.’’

Asked about Haynesworth’s short stint in Foxborough, Shanahan replied, “It didn’t surprise me.’’

Without Davis, Grossman’s ability to spread the ball could be limited. Jabar Gaffney, who played parts of three seasons with the Patriots (2006-08) before signing a four-year, $10 million contract with Denver, now ranks as Washington’s leading receiver with 46 catches for 665 yards and 3 touchdowns.

“It’s just like somebody getting hurt,’’ Shanahan said. “Somebody goes down, somebody’s got to step up and get the job done. We’ll see who steps up and, hopefully, takes advantage of the opportunity.’’

Asked about Washington’s suspended players, Belichick said, “I’m sure they’ll miss those guys. Whoever the next guy is, however they decide to go, I’m sure Mike and Kyle [Shanahan, offensive coordinator] - they’re two of the best offensive game plan coaches that we’ve gone up against - I’m sure they’ll utilize the personnel that they have and give us a lot of problems with it, however they decide to do it.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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