"The injury situation right now definitely is not what I'd like it to be," said Dick Jauron. "In some cases, it will be a wait and see scenario, A lot of the choices as far as who will play and who won't will be made just before game time."
To make a final decision on who is capable of starting, Jauron, Greg Blache and John Shoop plan to take each injured player out on the field Sunday morning to check for comfort level and ease of movement.
"That's the best case scenario for us," Jauron said. "We'll get some feedback from the player then mesh that with our observations. If he's healthy, he'll go. If he's not, then he's held out until the situation improves. You never want to make the mistake of aggravating a problem that's already there. In some cases where the injury is more severe, we know several days ahead of time that he's just not going to be able to start."
The upside of this discouraging situation is that a number of talented rookies will get more game time than anticipated earlier in the season.
"These players have been giving it all they've got," Jauron said. "It isn't a case of our having to push them in practice to prepare for the game. They push themselves. This is a group with an excellent work ethic. What it all comes down to however is how they will perform during a game."
The downside of featuring young players can be their relative inexperience.
"Sometimes what you see during the week isn't necessarily what you'll get in a game," Jauron said. "You don't really know how they will react until you see them in a pressure situation. They're going to have to raise it up a notch. They've got have that same speed and confidence that we see in practice and be able to make the plays when it counts."
What about the return of veteran QB Chris Chandler as a starter after an injury plagued season last year?
"I guess that over the winter my main concern about Chris was whether he would have trouble staying on the field for us this year," Jauron said. "But I have never spent any time at all worrying about his ability. I have complete confidence in what he can do. We simply have to protect him better. If he has a good strong football team around him, he'll be fine."
Although the unusual number of injuries incurred recently has an effect on each position, the situation has been particularly noticeable in special teams.
"Injury problems have a way of funneling down throughout the roster," Jauron said. "Special teams is the place where rookies have the chance to break into football at this level. Now we are having to push them up into the regular rotation much earlier than we or they had anticipated."
Are the rookies up to the task?
"The guys on special teams right now are doing a terrific job," Jauron said. "For that, I put most of the credit on their coach. Mike Sweatman has been outstanding in his work with these young players. There has been tremendous pressure both on Mike and on each member of special teams. To Mike's credit, he has gotten everybody ready every week."
With Chris Chandler slated to start, QB Kordell Stewart is presently listed as questionable. The final determination of Stewart's game day status will be made early Sunday morning.
"That will have to be a last minute decision," Jauron said. "Kordell hasn't taken part in any of our team drills this week. He has done a few individual drills with the coaches. We're going to wait two more days, then make our decision the morning of the game. If Kordell isn't physically ready to play, then Rex Grossman will be our number two quarterback."