Win and a Loss; Jansen Injury Tempers Gibbs' Return

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Byline: Mark Zuckerman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

CANTON, Ohio - The feel-good story that was Joe Gibbs' return to the NFL quickly soured last night when the Hall of Fame coach's first game back on the sideline in 11 years produced a lackluster performance from his starters and a devastating injury to one of his team leaders.

Though the Washington Redskins pulled out a last-minute, 20-17 exhibition victory over the Denver Broncos in the Hall of Fame Game, Gibbs' mood was tempered by news that right tackle Jon Jansen was lost for the season with a ruptured Achilles' tendon.

Jansen's injury was the low point in a game that featured few highlights from Washington's perspective. Quarterbacks Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey both had ineffective nights, and running back Clinton Portis was practically an afterthought among the crowd of 22,177 at Fawcett Stadium.

"We got a big downer there with Jon," Gibbs said. "It took a lot out of us for a while."

Two of the lone bright spots came from two of the Redskins' biggest offseason acquisitions on defense, cornerback Shawn Springs and rookie safety Sean Taylor. Springs intercepted a Jake Plummer pass in the first quarter, then was one-upped when Taylor picked off two Matt Mauck throws, returning the second 3 yards for a touchdown.

And no one was appreciated more than Redskins journeyman backup kicker Ola Kimrin, who drilled a 39-yard field goal as time expired to win the game and save everyone from a meaningless overtime.

"It was a little different being back out there in the heat of battle," Gibbs said. "It was a hard first half, and it was my fault. But it was good being back out."

Taylor and Kimrin's performances notwithstanding, Washington did little to make Gibbs' ballyhooed return to the NFL a memorable occasion. In fact, the only image most are likely to remember from this game is that of Jansen sitting in pain on the bench, head in his hands as trainers worked on his injured ankle.

Jansen, selected before the game to represent the Redskins' offense as captain, went down late in the first quarter and immediately motioned for assistance from the training staff. A hush came over Washington's sideline as teammates took turns comforting the sixth-year veteran, who has never missed a game in his professional career.

That streak is now certain to end, and it's going to be some time before Jansen is physically able to return to the field. He's likely headed for the injured reserve list, which would end his season before it ever began.

"We're going to try to make the best decision we can for Jon," Gibbs said. "He's going to play here forever. I told him let's get this fixed. Now we're going to have to have someone step up."

Jansen was expected to be a particularly key figure this year as the blind-side protector for Mark Brunell, though the left-handed quarterback didn't do much last night to ensure victory over Patrick Ramsey in the duo's preseason competition. …