Washington finished preseason with four critical starters — season franchise rushing record-holder Clinton Portis, No. 1 cornerback Shawn Springs, top defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and 2005 sacks leader Phillip Daniels on the sideline.
In fact, only Griffin, who sprained his right knee in the second preseason game against the New York Jets, saw any action after the preseason opener at Cincinnati on Aug. 13.
While Griffin and defensive end Daniels, who sprained his back in practice on Aug. 15, returned on Tuesday, Springs and Portis remained out along with leading reserve end Renaldo Wynn.
Asked if he was going to be recovered from August 15 abdominal surgery in time to face the Vikings, Springs shook his head no.
"They said it was going to be three-to-six weeks and it's three weeks today," Springs said. "It's getting better, but ..."
Portis was unavailable on Tuesday, but coach Joe Gibbs said, "Clinton feels he's making real progress. He had a real good day in the weight room and rehab also. He's kind of doing double duty there. He's doing a real good job with it and we'll continue to expand what he's doing. It's still kind of day-to-day."
Gibbs said that Portis won't play if he can't practice. Ladell Betts would continue to start if Portis isn't ready for the Vikings.
"I don't think it would limit (the offense), but we'd be missing a real good football player, one of the leaders of our team," Gibbs said. Ladell, T.J. (Duckett) and Rock (Cartwright) are guys we have a lot of confidence in."
The news was better from the trenches.
"I feel good," Daniels said. "It was tough being out so long, but they wanted to make sure I was ready to go for the opener. If they had really needed me, I could've come back last week."
Griffin wasn't quite as far along.
"It was my first day so I wanted to be careful about what I did, but I felt good," Griffin said. "I did what I had to do. Come Thursday, I'll do more and I'll be good to go (on Monday)."
Said Gibbs, "It means a lot to us to have them back out there. Hopefully, Renaldo will be back out there on Thursday."
Wynn, who sprained his right ankle on Aug. 26 at New England, hopes to return when the players hit the field again on Thursday.
"If I can get some work done on Thursday that will be my test," Wynn said. "(But) I plan on being out there Monday night."
SERIES HISTORY: 18th meeting. Redskins lead series, 10-7 (7-5 regular season). This is just third game between Washington and Minnesota in the last 13 seasons: Host Redskins won 2004 finale over playoff-bound Vikes 21-18, host Vikes' 41-7 laugher in 1998 dropped winless Skins to 0-7.
If starter Mark Brunell gets hurt in a game, veteran backup Todd Collins will play. If Brunell isn't able to start a game, second-year man Jason Campbell would see his first NFL action.
"As the year goes on, things could change, but I think this is the best way for us to go into the season," Gibbs said. "Todd, on short notice, can go right in and be super-sharp. Then we could get Jason in there with a full week (of practice). We believe he has the kind of talent that can win games for us."
Brunell, who turns 36 on Sept. 17, didn't miss a start because of injury in his first two years with the Redskins, but he has only started all 16 games twice in his career (in 1996 and 2000 with Jacksonville). He left a game early with an injury in each of the last two seasons.
Collins, 34, hasn't started a game since 1997 with just 27 passes during the last eight years, the past five of which he spent in Kansas City under new Washington offensive boss Al Saunders. Collins was 32-for-54 for 394 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason.
"Todd is big, strong and makes good decisions," Gibbs said.
Campbell, 24, was 26-for-51 for 270 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason.
"Jason can throw a ball in places a lot of people can't," said Gibbs, who traded three picks to Denver for the right to move up and draft Campbell 25th overall in 2005. "He's a really talented guy who we think is the future of the Redskins."
Brunell termed the arrangement "a little different," but he, Collins, Campbell and the rest of the players, of course, gave the decision the thumbs-up.
"You can take your pick with those two," center Casey Rabach said. "Todd has been in this offensive system for a while now and knows the ins and outs of it. Jason is a tremendous athlete and is learning on the fly but doing a heck of a job."
The 6-8, 317-pound Mississippi product was cut by Houston on July 14 and worked out for the Redskins last month after backup tackle Jim Molinaro had knee surgery. Wade, 29, waited until yesterday to sign in hopes of finding a more lucrative contract and a better chance to start. But he'll be a backup in Washington unless starters Jon Jansen or Chris Samuels get hurt.
"Time ran out and it was time to go to a team," Wade said.
"Todd's a talented guy," Gibbs said. "The rest of the guys backing up, we really like ‘em, but we didn't have an experienced starter there so you're always looking. There was nobody putting a tackle out there (in Saturday's final cuts)."
Ndukwe tossed his cleats in the locker room trash can after hearing the news, but he could return to the practice squad — where he spent most of 2005 — if he clears waivers. In that event, Washington would likely cut rookie free agent tackle Chris Pino.
"I didn't get a lot of sleep Thursday or Friday night," Montgomery said. "We had to come in to lift and have meetings on Saturday morning and that's when (special teams coach) Danny Smith told (rookies Montgomery, defensive tackle Kedric Golston, linebacker Rocky McIntosh and safety Reed Doughty) that we had made the team. It was a big sigh of relief."
Montgomery was kept in favor of veteran tackle Cedric Killings.
"I called Ced and told him to hang in there and that I had been there," said starting tackle Joe Salave'a. "The good news is that he's healthy. (Tennessee) cut me (in 2002) when my ankle was messed up and I was coming back from surgery on my right rotator cuff."
BY THE NUMBERS: Redskins coach Joe Gibbs is 8-0 against Minnesota.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Jason just needs experience. Everybody knows the kid has skills. He has what it takes. The upper hand that Todd has is that he has been in the system for the last five years." — Receiver Brandon Lloyd on coach Joe Gibbs' unusual decision to name two No. 2 quarterbacks.