George To Start For 'Skins

Just before practice, Jeff George received word his newborn baby apparently is fine. It made Thursday's big news at work seem less significant.

After practice, as George hurried to the hospital to be with his wife and 1-day old son, he was selected by coach Norv Turner as the Washington Redskins' starting quarterback for Sunday's game at Arizona.

"I think he was relieved, we all were relieved when he got the phone call here that was very positive," Turner said.

George is starting because Brad Johnson sprained a knee ligament during Monday night's 27-21 loss to Tennessee. Johnson was unable to practice for the second consecutive day Thursday.

"I would think Brad will be out of the game," Turner said. "I'd like for him to at least be able to dress, but I'm not sure he'll even be able to do that."

George also didn't practice Wednesday as he attended the birth of the son, his third child, leaving rookie Todd Husak as the only healthy quarterback on the field.

On Thursday, Turner said there were concerns about the baby's "irregular breathing." George spent part of his lunch hour on the phone with his wife and was the first player off the field following practice.

"I've got to tend to some personal business," he told reporters as he headed toward his car.

George signed a four-year, $18.25 millkof!contract in April to back up Johnson. Although he's a proven quarterback who could start for many teams, George said he wanted to play for a Super Bowl contender. The Redskins wanted the best insurance money could buy in case Johnson struggled or got hurt.

George has yet to play this season and has taken only about 10 percent of the snaps in practice, but his credentials mean there's less anxiety about the quarterback switch.

"It eases your concern," Turner said. "You've got a guy that's a veteran of a lot of games, a playoff quarterback, an All-Pro quarterback coming in to play for you. I expect us to play well on offense, and I expect Jeff to play well."

The Redskins have a bye following the Arizona game, but team officials are uncertain whether Johnson will be able to return for the following game, a Monday night trip to St. Louis.

"He's got a pretty tender knee," trainer Bubba Tyer said. "Grade 2 sprains could be two weeks, could be four weeks."

Turner said he won't have to make fundamental changes to the Arizona game plan because both Johnson and George are pocket passers. However, Turner said he might tweak a few things to take advantage of George's stronger arm.

"Jeff can throw the ball anywhere," receiver Anre Reed said. "Brad is a more disciplined quarterback. When Jeff is out there, the ball can go anywhere. You have to be on your toes."

Turner said he was concerned the distraction over the baby could take away from George's preparation, but it didn't show on the field Thursday.

"He had a very good practice," Turner said. "He's into it, in terms of what we're doing."

Johnson's knee is just one entry on a lengthening Redskins injury list. Linebacker Shawn Barber, who has a sprained knee, and nickel back Darrell Green, with a calf injury, have been ruled out for Sunday.

Guard Keith Sims will try to play again on his sore Achilles' tendon, although he still isn't able to practice. Receiver Irving Fryar will have to wear padding to protect a rib injury. The receiving corps is so banged up that cornerback Champ Bailey is getting more work on offense just in case.

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