WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins, shaking up their roster in the wake of their third defeat in four outings and worst beating in 24 years, cut veterans Pete Cronan and Todd Liebenstein on Tuesday.
In other moves, the Redskins signed former Cleveland Brown kicker Steve Cox to replace the injured Jeff Hayes.
Hayes, who tore a thigh muscle in his kicking leg on Sunday against Chicago, was placed on injured reserves and will be lost to the team for at least four weeks.
Cronan, a linebacker, and Liebenstein, a defensive end, had been used this year exclusively on special teams. To replace them, the Redskins signed linebacker Joe Krakowski and running back Reggie Branch.
Krakowski, a sixth-round draft choice of the Houston Oilers this year, was cut by the Oilers and was picked up Tuesday as a free agent.
Branch, a free agent running back from East Carolina, was cut by the Redskins this summer.
Cox, in his fifth year in the NFL, averaged 43.4 yards punting for the Browns last year, the highest Cleveland average in 19 seasons.
Cronan and Liebenstein were both members of the Redskin special teams that have allowed teams to return five kickoffs this year of more than 35 yards.
Cronan is in his eighth year in the NFL and fifth with the Redskins. He had served as captain of the Redskins special teams.
"When a team struggles through an early start things, decisions have to be made," said Cronan. "The coaches thought this was the one."
In response to a claim that he did not provide the leadership expected of him as special teams' captain, Cronan said: "I think it was more a lack of receptiveness to leadership on this team than a lack of leaders."
Liebenstein was the Redskins fourth-round draft choice in 1981. A starter in the Redskins 1983 Super Bowl season, Liebenstein has since lost his starting job to Charles Mann.
"Todd is just not a special teams player," said Redskin General Manager Bobby Beathard. "Reggie Branch graded out as a our best special teams player in training camp. With Reggie, we know what we are getting.'
The Redskins had lost two of their first three games and then hit rock bottom Sunday, losing 45-10 to Chicago. The Redskins had led 10-0 when Willie Gault turned the game around with a 99-yard kick return.
Monday evening, Gibbs recalled the kick in foretelling the roster actions taken Tuesday.
"We have had enough problems this year to know this (Gault's 99-yard return) is no accident," said Gibbs, who suggested a wholesale re-evaluation of talent on the kick coverage squad would be accomplished before next Monday night's game against St. Louis.
In their Super Bowl 1982 season, the Redskins did not permit a kick return longer than 33 yards all year, in four games this year they have already been burned for kick returns of 35, 36, 50, 52 and 99 yards.
"On a scale of one to 10, I would have rated our kick coverage a 10 in 1982," said special teams coach Wayne Sevier. "This year, maybe a three."