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NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - INSIDE SLANT
For all the fuss over Robert Griffin III, the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year hasn't taken a single snap this spring.
Kirk Cousins was the Redskins' No. 1 quarterback through OTAs and minicamp. That's a role he didn't figure on having last December and one he knows will disappear once Griffin is fully recovered from knee surgery, perhaps as soon as the July 25 start of training camp.
Griffin reiterated June 11 that he expects to be taking snaps in Richmond on July 25. Coach Mike Shanahan said that it's up to the doctors to clear Griffin, who has spent the spring working on the side with fellow rehabbing Redskins, such as receiver Pierre Garcon, tight ends Fred Davis and Jordan Reed and running back Chris Thompson.
Even if Griffin's ready when camp starts, he might not take as many practice reps or play as much in preseason as a typical 23-year-old quarterback because of the brace that covers the right knee in which he had the June 9 surgery to repair the ACL and LCL. That would give Cousins extra chances to show his ability in July and August when everyone's in full pads.
But no matter when he returns to his standard backup role, Cousins believes he's making the most of the lengthy chance to work with the starters.
"I see this as a great opportunity for me, however long it lasts," Cousins said. "I wasn't expecting to be with the No. 1 offense much at all, so now to be able to do it for (an extended period) will help my growth and development tremendously."
Shanahan, who drafted Cousins in the fourth round last year, three rounds after selecting Griffin, sees his backup developing well this spring with the extra snaps.
"Kirk has done an excellent job," Shanahan said. "Any time a quarterback gets reps, he's going to improve himself. You can see the progression in his game. He's playing with a lot of confidence and we like what we see. Kirk is a student of the game. He leaves no stone unturned in his preparation. He's got that type of mindset. He's extremely bright, but you've got to go out there and do it. That's what Kirk has the ability to do right now, get a lot more reps going into his second year. I think it will be invaluable to him for years to come."
Of course, Cousins also played more than he expected as a rookie, filling in for the injured Griffin against the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens, starting against the Cleveland Browns and finishing out the playoff loss against the Seattle Seahawks.
"I view this as a proving ground to see if I deserve to be a starter," said Cousins," who is signed through 2015. "I want to play so well in practice that even if I'm not the guy, the coaches are watching film and saying, 'I can't wait until we can give this guy an opportunity to show us what he can do on Sundays.' I have to be preparing like I'm starting. If you start to let the thought creep in your mind of, 'I'm probably not going to start,' I think your preparation starts to suffer. If I play well, it opens up doors elsewhere. If I don't play well, it doesn't."
--The offseason retirements of Baltimore's Ray Lewis and Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber have left Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher, a Pro Bowl participant four years running, as the NFL's grand old man, but that's not a title he wears so willingly because he much prefers looking ahead instead of back.
"I take my hat off to 'em; those guys are enjoying the retired life, but I'm still enjoying playing the game," said Fletcher, who turned 38 last month. "I've got more to give to this team, more to accomplish. I'm still trying to get better, still working on things, still trying to challenge myself to see how I can play at an even higher level. It takes a lot of preparation to be out there week-in and week-out and not just be out there, but be out there and play well. First and foremost, I've been blessed with good health. There's a lot of great players, who barring injuries would've had long careers. I take my job very seriously and I really focus on not letting my teammates down."
Fletcher had the first surgeries of his career -- on an ankle and an elbow -- in March and coach Mike Shanahan told him that he could skip OTAs like so many of his rehabbing teammates. Fat chance of that.
"I was really champing at the bit to be able to get back into the weight room, get back on the field, do what I've always done," he said. "Once I was physically cleared, it was easy for me to get back out here. Coach said I didn't have to, but this is what I do."
So well that he led the Redskins in interceptions last season with a career-high five and, as always, led them in tackles.
"Fletch is a leader, a hard worker," said quarterback Robert Griffin III, whom Shanahan gave the locker next to Fletcher's as a rookie last spring. "The guys love him. He doesn't have to be out here practicing, but even at his age and the amount of games that he has put up in a row, he still wants to be out here and working at it so that he can get better."
Whether Fletcher, the NFL's top tackler during his 14 years as a starter with St. Louis, Buffalo and Washington, can improve at this stage of his career is highly questionable, but as Shanahan said, "He sets the tempo. He's our natural leader. He leads by example. I've never been around anyone quite like him, and hopefully he can keep on doing what he has done."
Pretty impressive for a squatty guy from a Division III school who started college on a basketball scholarship and made the Rams as a rookie free agent in 1998.
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - NOTES, QUOTES
--Brandon Meriweather has played less than a full game for the Redskins since signing with them in March 2012. And yet, if the two-time Pro-Bowl pick can show that his oft-injured right knee is sound, he's expected to be their starting strong safety this season.
Meriweather was originally injured in the second preseason game last August. He was on the verge of making his regular-season debut with Washington when he hurt the knee again during warmups in Week 5 at Tampa Bay. Meriweather finally played seven weeks later against Philadelphia and intercepted a pass before his season ended with yet another injury to the same knee.
This spring, Meriweather, 29, has joined fellow rehabbing safety Jordan Bernstine on the sideline for each practice although he hopes to be back in uniform when training camp begins on July 25.
"(Last season) was super-tough, but I'm working hard to get back," Meriweather said. "Every day I try to do something I didn't do yesterday. I keep trying to get stronger and better. I've never had a torn ACL (before) so I don't know what the timetable's like, but if you ask me if there's any doubt (that I'll be ready for training camp), I say no, but you ask the doctors and the trainers they may say yes. So who knows?"
With Meriweather on the mend, the Redskins drafted safeties Phillip Thomas and Baccari Rambo and signed Devin Holland to compete with him and fellow holdovers Reed Doughty, D.J. Gomes and Jordan Bernstine.
Coach Mike Shanahan said that Bernstine, who badly injured his right knee in the 2012 opener and has yet to return to the field, might not be ready for the start of camp.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said that while he can definitely envision one of the rookie safeties starting, everything at the position depends on Meriweather's health.
"I think Brandon will be fine once we get to camp," coach Mike Shanahan said. "He looks pretty good. The one thing you don't want to do when somebody hurts his knee is get him going too quickly. I thought when Brandon played last year, he played exceptionally well."
--The Redskins re-signed veteran receiver Donte Stallworth, who participated in the final two spring practices on a tryout basis.
Stallworth, 32, spent most of 2011 with Washington but finished last season with New England. Having recently begun working out again after suffering a high ankle sprain last December, Stallworth was badly burned on the left forearm and the rear end when the hot air balloon he was riding in struck a power line on March 16 in Homestead, Fla. His then-girlfriend, who was burned even more seriously, and the pilot also survived the accident.
Four years and two days earlier in Miami Beach, Stallworth hit and killed a pedestrian while driving under the influence. He was charged with manslaughter, served 30 days and was sentenced to 1,000 hours of community service and eight years probation. He was suspended by the NFL for the 2009 season.
"My accident four years ago definitely changed my life, and then after this recent one, you literally cherish every second that you're able to breathe," Stallworth said. "It was a setback, but I didn't want it to end my career. I still felt like I could play and play at a high level and that's what I'm trying to prove out here now."
Stallworth had 22 catches, 309 yards and two touchdowns in a reserve role for the Redskins two years ago and coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were enthusiastic about his return.
"I didn't want to lose Donte' a year ago," Mike Shanahan said. "I did call him up and I told him I thought he made a mistake (by signing with) New England. I thought he would have been better being with us just because I liked what he did, what he brought to the table. I was hoping that we could get him back."
Stallworth would still be a long shot to win a spot on the 53-man regular season roster with Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson returning as the top four receivers. Speedy Aldrick Robinson and Dezmon Briscoe are also back from last season, and the Redskins also signed former Saints receiver Devery Henderson on Wednesday.
"I have a lot of rust, a lot of kinks to work out, but it felt great being out here," Stallworth said. "There was some carryover from when I was here last. I was able to remember some of the plays on the fly. I was a little surprised at that, but pleasantly surprised. I still have a lot of friends on this team. Last year, they had a great season and they've been trying to build on that. Hopefully I can be a part of that this season. It's really special for me to be able to have this opportunity. Now I'm just trying to make the most of it."
--Adam Carriker has had more surgeries (two) than complete games (one) since the start of last season, but Haslett isn't ruling out the defensive end who has started for him in St. Louis and Washington.
"Knowing how competitive Adam is, he'll be back at some point," Haslett said of Carriker, who missed the entire spring while rehabbing in the training room. "He's one of the hardest working guys on the team. The one you don't want to say, 'this guy won't make it back,' don't say that about Adam."
Doug Worthington, who moved up from the practice squad to the fourth end spot in Carriker's absence last season, injured a biceps on Tuesday and might need surgery. He was waived/injured Wednesday and will be placed on reserve/injured if he clears waivers.
--Reserve nose tackle Chris Neild, who missed all of 2012 after tearing his left ACL on Aug. 13, is back full-go, albeit with a brace protecting the surgically-repaired knee.
"I'm feeling real good," said Neild, a seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft. "They're easing me into it. I feel it a little bit, but I don't think about it that much. The brace helps. I know when I have it on I have a lot less chance of getting hurt again."
QUOTES TO NOTE: "The zone read is something I feel in the long run helps a quarterback. Everyone's accounted for and there aren't many free hitters. The whole key to the zone read is just the threat of the zone read. If you're not honoring it, you're usually going to get 15 yards before contact. It was the least pass rush I've ever seen as a coordinator. (Defenses were) just sitting there just scared to death, just watching and not moving. ... The threat of Robert running was the thing I enjoyed the most throughout the year." -- Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan on keeping the zone read in Washington's offense while noting that quarterback Robert Griffin III's concussion and two injuries happened on pass plays last season.
"Ten years of playing professional football and I've never been carted off the field. And I've never even been helped off the field. If I had a knee injury, I was able to get up and walk away on my own. And I go on a hot air balloon, something that seems very peaceful for two hours, and I'm getting airlifted to a hospital, life on the line." - WR Donte Stallworth,
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--WR/KR Brandon Banks (not tendered as RFA).
--OT Jordan Black (not tendered as UFA).
--OT Jammal Brown (not tendered as UFA).
--TE Chris Cooley (not tendered as UFA).
--CB Cedric Griffin (not tendered as UFA).
--S Madieu Williams (not tendered as UFA).
--DE Chris Wilson (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--CB David Amerson (2/51): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Jordan Reed (3/85): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Phillip Thomas (4/119): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Chris Thompson (5/154): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Brandon Jenkins (5/162): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Bacarri Rambo (6/191): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--RB Jawan Jamison (7/228): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--NT Chris Baker: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
--TE Fred Davis: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Kedric Golston: UFA; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--QB Rex Grossman: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--CB DeAngelo Hall: FA had been released by Redskins; $2.25M/1 yr.
--LB Rob Jackson: Potential RFA; $715,000/1 yr.
--LB Bryan Kehl: UFA; terms unknown.
--G Kory Lichtensteiger: Potential UFA; 5 yrs, terms unknown.
--TE Logan Paulsen: Potential RFA; $3.41M/3 yrs, $1M SB.
--OT Tyler Polumbus: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--P Sav Rocca: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LS Nick Sundberg: Potential RFA; 4 yrs, terms unknown.
--FB Darrel Young: Potential RFA; $6.2M/3 yrs.
--CB E.J. Biggers: UFA Buccaneers terms unknown.
--NT Ron Brace: FA; terms unknown.
--WR Devery Henderson: Not tendered as UFA by Saints; terms unknown.
--C/G Kevin Matthews: Not tendered as ERFA by Titans; terms unknown.
--DE Phillip Merling: FA; terms unknown.
--T Tony Pashos: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Donte' Stallworth: Not tendered as UFA by Patriots; terms unknown.
--LB Darryl Tapp: UFA Eagles; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T Jeremy Trueblood: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--QB Pat White: FA; terms unknown.
--LB Lorenzo Alexander: UFA Cardinals; $9.5M/3 yrs, $3M guaranteed.
--CB D.J. Johnson (released).