WASHINGTON — The Redskins have signed veteran center John Sullivan, according to an NFL source with knowledge of the transaction.
Sullivan, 31, fits an area that quickly became a need for Washington. Starting center Kory Lichtensteiger was injured in Sunday’s win over the New York Giants. He has a calf strain and will be placed on injured reserve, according to a source. The initial timetable for Lichtensteiger was “week-to-week” but he is now headed to IR for a second consecutive season.
The Redskins used reserve lineman Spencer Long at center on Sunday. He played 38 of 71 offensive snaps at that spot. Long was the primary backup center throughout training camp while also competing for the starting left guard job.
Sullivan was a long-time center for the Minnesota Vikings. He started 93 of 96 games between 2009 and 2014, but missed all of last season after undergoing two back surgeries. He lost the competition at center this summer to Joe Berger and was released by Minnesota on Aug. 30 after the Vikings could not find a trade partner.
But the Redskins needed help quickly. Lichtensteiger, who also missed practice time with a sore back earlier this month, was diagnosed with a “moderate” calf strain, coach Jay Gruden said on Monday. Lichtensteiger played 34 snaps on Sunday before leaving the game for good.
Washington didn’t have an emergency center, either, behind Long. Center Austin Reiter made the initial 53-man roster, but was inactive in the Sept. 12 season opener against Pittsburgh. The Redskins cut Reiter the next day and re-signed him to the practice squad. But the Cleveland Browns signed Reiter to their 53-man roster last Tuesday.
Ironically, he will be in uniform this weekend when Cleveland plays the Redskins at FedEx Field. Reiter was Washington’s seventh-round pick in 2015. There were no other developmental centers on the active roster or the practice squad and the Redskins scrambled to find a replacement.
“We lost a center, so we’ll probably have to bring in a center-type body,” Gruden said on Monday. “We’re looking at that right now. [General manager] Scot [McCloughan] and the rest of the staff are working on that. We have some people in house. With [Arie] Kouandjio, he could be up as a guard. He’s been here and knows the system, is a good player for us. He’s an alternate candidate also.”
Kouandjio, though, will be needed at left guard, where Shawn Lauvao is also listed week-to-week with a moderate ankle sprain. Lichtensteiger is the fourth Redskins veteran to be placed on injured reserve since the start of training camp: Linebacker Junior Galette (torn right Achilles tendon), defensive lineman Kedric Golston (hamstring) and free safety DeAngelo Hall (torn ACL, right knee) are all out for the season.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Sullivan played college football at Notre Dame and was a sixth-round pick by the Vikings in 2008 – the same draft class as Lichtensteiger (Denver, fourth round). He was their starting center by 2009 and held that spot for six years.
Lichtensteiger missed the final 11 games of the regular season in 2015 after a pinched nerve caused weakness in his left shoulder. But he did return for the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. He has one year remaining on his contract.
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