COMMENTARY | The Washington Redskins drafted seven players in the 2013 draft.
Dealing with an $18 million salary-cap penalty imposed by the league, the Redskins may be more dependent on their draft class than any other team in the NFL this season. Yet, before a single snap has been played in the regular season, the rookie injuries are starting to mount.
Tight end Jordan Reed missed the team's entire offseason program due to a leg injury. Then, on August 5, he suffered a foot injury in practice. While the injury appears not to be substantial and he is considered day-to-day, it was significant enough to sideline him from the Redskins' first preseason game against Tennessee.
Safety Phillip Thomas appeared briefly in the game, but he injured his foot and shoulder in the first quarter on a tackle. The shoulder injury was just a stinger, but the foot injury is a sprain that is expected to keep him from practicing for a few days.
The Redskins have stated they do not believe either player has suffered a Lisfranc injury, a significant foot injury with lengthy recovery time. Lisfranc injuries can often be mistaken for other foot injuries, however, so the team is likely to be very cautious with both players.
Chris Thompson was expected to compete with Roy Helu Jr. as a change-of-pace running back. Thompson, however, is recovering from an ACL tear he suffered nine months ago. While there have been no setbacks in his recovery, even he has admitted, "Everyone is not Adrian Peterson."
None of these players is expected to miss a significant amount of time, but, for rookies, every missed practice can be critical. This is their first NFL offseason and it can take players time to adjust to the pro level. Missing preseason games is particularly troubling.
After the initial excitement of the return of football, most fans turn their noses at the preseason and dismiss it as unimportant, but these games are vital for rookies. This is their first taste of NFL competition -- the closest a player can get to an actual NFL game. Being able to experience that, to experience the gameday process, the intensity of the opposition can go a long way toward preparing rookies for opening day. Missing that first game will make the adjustment to the NFL that much more difficult for these players.
Will the lack of practice time affect whether they make the roster? Probably not. Most teams and coaches are biased toward their own draft picks. For head coach Mike Shanahan to cut a draft pick would be an acknowledgement that he made a mistake and, well, let's just say humility does not seem to be his strong suit.
Reed and Thomas are pretty much locks to make the team. Thompson was injured before the draft and the Redskins still chose to draft him in the fifth round. Shanahan has a history of drafting successful running backs, so it is safe to assume he saw something in Thompson he really liked even with the injury.
That said, carrying unproven players is risky. No one has a perfect record when it comes to the draft; every class has its busts. Preseason games provide coaches with an opportunity to gauge how rookies will compete at the NFL level. Simply giving three roster spots to rookies who are question marks is risky, especially with a roster stretched as thin as the Redskins'. At the very least, the more time they miss decreases the initial impact they would have had.
"Some guys, unfortunately, are going to be injured," Shanahan told reporters. "They've got to do a great job in rehab and get back as quick as they can if they want to have an opportunity to play going into the first game. If they miss a lot of playing time, practice time, the chances of them playing aren't very good."
NFL teams must cut their roster down to 75 players by August 27. If Reed, Thomas and Thompson want to ensure themselves a spot on the roster, they need to get healthy, stay healthy, and prove they belong in the NFL.
JJ Regan lives in the DC area and is a freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic.
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