During the Washington Redskins' organized team activities in late May and early June, a group of players, including at least six anticipated starters, were off to the side at Redskins Park participating in their own set of conditioning and training exercises.
The dozen or so assembled players were not permitted or cleared by head coach Mike Shanahan to fully participate in regular team activities so each could focus on his recovery from injury.
Among those participating in the walking-wounded workouts: quarterback Robert Griffin III, wide receiver Pierre Garcon, tight end Fred Davis, linebacker London Fletcher, safety Brandon Meriweather and cornerback Josh Wilson.
Although in hindsight it seems to contradict the manner in which he handled RG3 and his return in the NFC Wild Card Game last postseason, Shanahan told reporters May 30, via Redskins.com:
"You don’t want to put them in there too quickly because you don’t want to set them back. You just want to make sure we go to Richmond (site of Redskins training camp) and have a chance to have all these guys ready to compete for these positions.”
Could Shanahan have learned from his mistake? I digress. Anyway.
Additional Redskins players who participated in limited activities during OTAs include rookie running back Chris Thompson and rookie tight end Jordan Reed, guard Josh LeRibeus, offensive lineman Maurice Hurt, running back Roy Helu and inside linebacker Keenan Robinson.
Defensive end Adam Carriker did not participate in outdoor activities and continued his rehab indoors. In addition, although he missed nearly all of last season, LB Brian Orakpo participated in full OTAs. Both players were injured in Week 2 last season.
The sad fact of the matter is there were even more Redskins players in side practice than those I have mentioned. Several players missed just a few regular OTAs and participated in the injured-players workout in specific instances before returning to full activities.
Keeping in mind the team is currently away for break and media access is restricted, here is an update on the six potential and projected starters and the latest information available through various media reports.
QB Robert Griffin III
Last week, Griffin completed three consecutive days of cutting drills without suffering a setback, The Washington Post's Mike Jones reports. In all likelihood, RG3 will continue to wear a knee brace, although the duration has not been determined. Neither has his return date or any timetable as to when he will definitively return.
WR Pierre Garcon
Garcon had special shoes made just for him to assist his rehabilitation on the injured ligament in his right foot, NFL.com reports. Garcon is recovering from a bad case of turf toe. On top of his foot/toe injury, Garcon had surgery during the offseason to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.
In an interview June 6 on NFL AM and reported on NFL.com, he said, "If there was a game tomorrow, I would be able to play."
Which player's return will have the most impact in 2013?
TE Fred Davis
Rotowire.com (subscription required) reports, "Davis would be able to play next week if a game was scheduled, according to Shanahan. His recovery from Achilles' tendon surgery in October has progressed quite well, so expect him to take first-team reps when Redskins' training camp opens July 25th."
LB London Fletcher
Following offseason surgery on his elbow and left ankle in March, the 16-year veteran and stalwart on defense has earned the right to participate in OTAs whichever way he wants.
Although he led the team in tackles last season, opposing offensives are creating one-on-one scenarios that mismatch one of the oldest players in the NFL with tight ends and running backs nearly half his age.
After all, Mr. Fletcher has played in 240 consecutive NFL games.
S Brandon Meriweather
Following a torn ACL in November 2012, Meriweather has taken a bit longer than expected to fully recover from surgery.
At his May 23 press conference, via Redskins.com, Shanahan was positive yet cautious in his assessment:
“I think Brandon will be fine once we get to camp. ... The one thing you don’t want to do when somebody hurts his knee is get him going too quickly...just let it heal and strengthen the muscles around the knee. Right now he looks pretty good.”
CB Josh Wilson
Following not one but two offseason shoulder surgeries, his left labrum and pectoral, Wilson's participation during OTAs was minimal. Updates on his status have been few, but CBS Sports reported Wilson suffered a thigh injury in the final days of OTA workouts.
He is expected to be available for training camp and start the regular season alongside DeAngelo Hall at the cornerback position.
All of these players have been mentioned as starters as long as they are healthy. The Redskins have an absolute need for these key players to return from various stages of recovery in order to remain competitive in what is turning out to be a highly competitive division in 2013.
With training camp one month away and the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles September 9, we can only hope for continued progress and a lack of setbacks for these injured players.
If not healthy, several players mentioned could face the reality of not making the 53-man roster due to the Redskins' depth at key positions, not to mention rookies and free-agent acquisitions.
The success of the Redskins' upcoming season and any chance at a playoff spot, including retaining the NFC East title, starts at the top with Robert Griffin III and his safe return to the starting lineup.