ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Trent Williams' four-game absence is a substantial blow to the Washington Redskins' playoff hopes, but a loss they are confident they can overcome.
The Pro Bowl left tackle is out the next four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, meaning well-traveled 31-year-old Ty Nsekhe moves into the starting lineup. Nsekhe's ability is respected, but there's no doubt it hurts the Redskins to be without Williams against the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals.
''Definitely one of our leaders, definitely one of the staple cornerstones on that offensive line,'' cornerback Josh Norman said Monday. ''Losing a guy like that is kind of hard to replace, but we will because we've got guys here that are formidable to do a job (and can) come in and perform admirably.''
Williams is able to take part in meetings but not practice or attend games during his suspension, which is up Dec. 5. He was not made available to address reporters as the Redskins returned from their bye week, and coach Jay Gruden said the specifics of his conversation with Williams will remain private.
''We stand behind Trent, and we know that he's going to be a big help for us when he becomes eligible,'' Gruden said. ''You hate to lose a player of that magnitude any way, shape or form. It's going to have an effect on our football team.''
It could be a domino effect, especially with right tackle Morgan Moses battling a sprained ankle. Moses reported feeling good after resting during the bye week, but there's little margin for error with Williams out and Nsekhe starting on the left side.
As for the immediate task of filling in for Williams, Gruden expressed confidence in Nsekhe, who started twice last season and has seen action in spurts this year. Nsekhe said his preparation doesn't change at all despite getting the first-team snaps at left tackle, but playing doesn't hurt.
''Of course the experience is a tremendous thing,'' Nsekhe said. ''There's nothing that you can simulate in practice or anything like that. I've been here before, so hopefully I can build on what I've already done.''
Moses worked out on a side field during the part of practice open to reporters. Despite Moses' optimism, Gruden wasn't ready to say he'll be ready to face the Vikings.
''He's still sore, but I think in time hopefully the swelling will go down and he'll be ready to go,'' Gruden said. ''He's a tough guy and played through worse injuries, but you never know. We've just got to do the best we can and get him as much rehab as we can and see how he's feeling come Wednesday.''
With so much uncertainty, the Redskins signed tackle Blaine Clausell, a 2015 undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State, off the Baltimore Ravens' practice squad. Clausell also spent time on the New England Patriots' practice squad.
But neither Nsekhe, Moses and Clausell can be a perfect replacement for Williams, one of the Redskins' top players. This is his second four-game drug suspension after serving one in 2011, but Gruden said this does not affect Williams' status as a leader.
Moses said he has already talked to Williams about preparing for the Vikings. The Redskins will continue to lean on Williams as much as they can during the suspension while also realizing they have to help him, too.
''It's just not a leader or a captain we're losing. We're losing a hell of a football player, as well,'' Moses said. ''He's still going to be here to be able to help us and he's still part of this team. It's our job as his teammates and friends to stick with him through this tough little time and we'll get him back.''
NOTES: The team placed TE Niles Paul on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Gruden said external options will be considered, as Paul was also Washington's fullback and a special teams ace. ... TE Derek Carrier returned to practice 11 months after tearing the ACL and medial collateral ligament in his right knee. The Redskins have 21 days to activate him from the physically unable to perform list, put him on IR or cut him. ... S Duke Ihenacho (concussion) practiced with a yellow jersey, while S Will Blackmon participated with a wrap on his left hand to protect his broken thumb.
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