Hankerson cleared to run, but not yet at 100 percent
RICHMOND — Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson has received clearance to run, but he is not yet ready to return from knee surgery. Hankerson said he will not rush back and will not allow himself to worry about a return date.
“Obviously, I can move around. I can run,” Hankerson said. “I’m not sure how fast I can run, but I can run. It’s about having some confidence in it, about being around 95 to 100 percent. I don’t have the explosion yet. I come out here, I line up and run routes and it’s not explosive. So, I know there’s no reason to go out there yet. I’d probably just go out there and embarrass myself or something like that.”
Hankerson, who will enter his fourth season out of Florida, tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee last fall and had surgery to repair it late in November.
He is now in the eighth month of his recovery. Earlier this offseason, he said he hoped to return to action by the start of training camp. But he has yet to receive clearance to do so, and instead opened training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
“I’m good, man. Just grinding. Nobody said it’d be easy,” he said. “They say seven to nine months, but it’s more like nine-plus months. So, I’m just doing what I’ve got to do and keeping a mindset and just grinding. … I know I feel better than I did Monday. I know I feel better than I did Tuesday. … I just have to keep being patient.”
Once healthy, Hankerson will find himself in competition for a spot at a crowded wide receiver position.
Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts are locked in as the top three threats. That leaves Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson, Cody Hoffman, Nick Williams, Ryan Grant, Rashad Lawrence, Lee Doss, Rashad Ross, Jerry Rice Jr. and Hankerson to vie for the final two or three roster spots.
Hankerson said that despite the circumstances, he knows he can’t rush himself back.
“It’s more than just getting out there and making a play and helping the team. It’s my career,” Hankerson said. “Maybe I would get out there, and maybe it’s not [strong enough], and maybe I’d get hurt, or maybe I’d not look too good and get cut. It’s bigger than getting out there and having fun. It’s better to be sure than going out there and trying because I’m worried about getting bumped and limping every day after practice.”
Hankerson added that although he’d like to return as soon as possible, he doesn’t feel the need to return for the sake of playing in the preseason.
“My health is more important than the preseason,” he said. “Preseason? What you playing for in the preseason? Nothing. Nothing. Yeah, helping guys get better and stuff like that. But I’d rather be 100 percent before I touch the field.”
Jason Hatcher working, waiting patiently for return
RICHMOND — Defensive end Jason Hatcher said he remains unsure when the team will activate him from the physically unable to perform list and clear him for practice. Hatcher called patience the key to a full and effective recovery.
Hatcher, Washington’s highest-profile defensive free agent acquisition this offseason, had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on June 20. He was told to expect a four- to six-week recovery time, and this week marked the fifth week.
The team’s medical staff didn’t clear Hatcher for practice this week, however, so his wait will continue for a while longer. Hatcher said that he is able to run without limitation. For now, his training regimen features a lot of exercises designed to strengthen his quadriceps and help him regain his explosiveness.
“I feel great, man. I feel like I’m ahead of schedule, but at the same time, we’ve just got to take it easy and trust the trainers that they’ll put me back at the right time,” said Hatcher, who this spring signed a four-year, $27.5 million contract to play for Washington.
“It wasn’t a big surgery. It wasn’t like I tore nothing,” he continued. “It was just a clean-up for the season. I’ll be back to myself pretty soon. They’ve got their game plan for me to be back on the field. As impatient as I am to get back out there with my guys, I know they’ll get me ready. I feel great right now — like I can go right now, but I know I have to trust them.”
Orakpo refuses to dwell on lack of long-term contract
RICHMOND — Linebacker Brian Orakpo would’ve preferred for the Redskins to have signed him to a long-term deal rather than play this season out on the one-year franchise player tag.
He maintained that desire throughout the offseason despite vowing that he wouldn’t become a distraction to his teammates, and despite signing his franchise tag tender worth $11.45 million rather than holding out for a more lucrative contract.
Orakpo has gone about his business here at training camp with his sights set squarely on the regular season opener in Houston on Sept. 7.
“I’m just focused on the Texans, man. That’s all I’m focused on,” Orakpo said when asked about the lack of a resolution to his long-term future.
Asked if he had wrestled with how to handle the situation, Orakpo declined to elaborate.
“I’m just focused on the Texans,” he reiterated.
Orakpo did say that in his mind, he does still have a chance to play football, and for now, that’s all that matters.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play in the NFL and I’ve just been trying to, each year of my career, get better and better and be the best I can and get this defense to being a top-tier defense in this league,” Orakpo said.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has adapted a more aggressive approach heading into this season, and Orakpo remains encouraged that because of it, he and his teammates have a chance to have a greater impact in 2014.
“We feel good. Little more of an attacking style, putting guys in position to make plays,” he said. “We’re kind of running plays to our strengths. That’s what the new difference is. Same coaching staff, same 3-4 defense, just a different philosophy.”
More from the Post:
Redskins training camp: Observations from Day 2
RICHMOND — With the camp-opening kinks worked out on Thursday, the Washington Redskins had an improved practice Friday and expressed encouragement over the progress they made.
“I think it was a lot more efficient for us,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “We were a better team today than we were yesterday, and that’s what we want. Yesterday, with the rain, first day back, we were a little sloppy. … But guys came out with a better attitude today — not that yesterday was bad. But, we got our bike taken away from us by the defense. I told the guys, ‘We’ve got to go get our bike back.’ ”
Griffin, after having what Jay Gruden described as an “erratic” practice on Thursday, had more zip and precision on his passes. He did particularly well in the mid-range passing game, connecting with his tight ends and wide receivers consistently.
Griffin went 7 for 8 during the seven-on-seven portion of practice with the lone incompletion coming on a dropped ball.
The quarterback said after watching video with his coaches, he focused on improving his footwork Friday, and that all of the offensive players paid greater attention to detail.
“Being able to rebound from yesterday offensively [boosts confidence],” Griffin said. “Although the field conditions were better today, I felt like mentally, we were more sharp, and everyone was taking care of what they have to take care of for us to be successful.”
Here are some observations from Friday’s practice:
● With weather conditions greatly improved, Washington had a much better fan turnout. Among those in attendance were 100 high school coaches, as the team hosted its annual high school coaches clinic. The men watched practice from the back of one of the end zones, and afterward had lunch and went through a brief seminar conducted by former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, who flew in for the event. He watched practice with general manager Bruce Allen prior to proceeding to the nearby Science Museum of Virginia, where the lunch and seminar took place.
● Jay Gruden has preached the importance of strong fundamentals, and the coaching staff places a high priority on practicing proper techniques. Each day, following the stretching and special teams segments, practice proceeds to a block of time dedicated to position-specific drills — running backs guarding against stripped balls, edge rushers using their hands, pass-catchers improving footwork by weaving through cones and making catches, linemen keying on blocks. The Shanahan staff did positional drills as well, but there seems to be a greater emphasis and more in-depth instruction on — and more time devoted to — these areas.
● Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo had a hot spurt in practice, getting into the backfield twice during a three-play span, and registering what would’ve been a pair of sacks had contact been permitted. On another play shortly after, defensive end Chris Baker got into the backfield and flushed Griffin out of the pocket.
● Baker got into the backfield later as he got a step on Tyler Polumbus and almost got a hand on Griffin. But the quarterback slid to his left and quickly fired a strike upfield to tight end Logan Paulsen.
● Inside linebacker Keenan Robinson appeared to have a better day in pass coverage, and recorded an interception during a one-on-one drill while matched up with Roy Helu Jr.
● Second-year running back Chris Thompson is vying for the third-down back role and appeared to have a strong practice, particularly in the pass-catching department. Thompson flashed his quickness as he eluded linebacker Darryl Sharpton at the line. Sharpton actually grabbed Thompson as he darted by, but the running back got free, created some space and made a nice catch. Thompson later had a nice pickup on a screen pass from Griffin during 11-on-11 drills.
● Rookie Lache Seastrunk — one of Thompson’s competitors — didn’t have much experience as a pass-catcher while at Baylor, but he appears to be comfortable in this capacity for the Redskins. Seastrunk during one play in one-on-one drills made a juggling catch with linebacker Will Compton draped over him.
● David Amerson had a couple of bright spots while in coverage on Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts. The Redskins’ coaches believe the former second-round pick is ready to take over as the starting cornerback opposite DeAngelo Hall, and thus far, he has fared well.
● DeSean Jackson again showed off his speed while running an end around. But what proved even more impressive on the same play was the quickness of left tackle Trent Williams, as the 6-foot-5, 337-pounder got off the line as a lead blocker and took out a defensive back in pursuit.
● Players continued to rotate as they compete for the top nickel back role in the secondary. E.J. Biggers saw some time in this capacity on the first team, as he has other times. But Richard Crawford also saw some time with the starting defense at that spot.
● With Perry Riley Jr. firmly entrenched at the ‘jack’ linebacker spot, and Robinson in line to start at the ‘mike’ position, Adam Hayward, Akeem Jordan, Sharpton and Compton are competing for backup duties. Friday, it was Jordan and Compton who played with the second team, a day after Sharpton and Hayward saw time there.
● Wide receiver Ryan Grant got the best of fellow rookie Bashaud Breeland during one matchup on Thursday, but on Friday, Breeland turned the tables as the cornerback made a diving pass deflection to deny Grant.
● Breeland had seen time primarily inside, but today also played one of the outside cornerback positions as he continues his education process.
● We saw our first head-to-head competition for field goal duties Friday. Kai Forbath made all four of his attempts at distances of 35, 35, 43 and 45 yards. Meanwhile, rookie Zach Hocker received three attempts — distances of 38, 40 and 45 yards — and made all three.
● Wide receiver Rashad Ross appeared to have one of the highlights of practice when he caught a bomb from Colt McCoy and had a step on cornerback Peyton Thompson and nothing but 15 yards between himself and the end zone. But Thompson swatted Ross on the back hard, and Ross fumbled the ball into the end zone. Thompson scooped up the ball and returned it back upfield before the play was blown dead.
More from the Post:
Theismann: Shanahan did RGIII a favor by benching him
RICHMOND — As he surveyed practice on Day 2 of training camp, former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was convinced that Mike Shanahan did Robert Griffin III a favor by benching him with three games remaining in a season gone horribly awry.
In short, Theismann liked what he saw of Griffin’s work during Friday morning’s session — struck particularly by the quarterback’s sure-footed ease of movement.
“I think Mike wanted Robert to be able to have an off-season and be healthy,” said Theismann, 64, who led the Redskins to victory in Super Bowl XVII. “And that’s exactly what he has done. He’s moving better. He’s more fluid than he was certainly a year ago. I think he’s moving better than he did as a rookie.”
Theismann spoke from the vantage point of a two-time Pro Bowler as well as a quarterback who suffered a catastrophic leg injury — more gruesome even than what knocked Griffin out of the NFC playoff game against Seattle on Jan. 6, 2013. His occurred nearly 30 years ago, during a Monday Night Football game against the New York Giants at RFK Stadium in November 1985, when a hit from linebacker Lawrence Taylor snapped his lower right leg like a twig.
Theismann tried returning to football, but his pro career was over.
“When anybody gets hurt, you try and accommodate — physically and mentally,” Theismann said. “I found out when I broke my right leg, and I tried to come back, I developed soreness in my arm that I never had before because my arm was trying to make up for the lack of power in my leg.
“So in Robert’s case, when you have a bad right knee, it’s your push-off leg, so all the sudden if it’s not 100 percent, and you don’t feel and believe it’s 100 percent, you start changing your delivery a little bit and then it starts to compound itself. Then, with the losses we had — and one thing after another, after another — the entire house of cards collapsed last year for this football team.”
Last season’s Redskins finished 3-13 (3-10 under Griffin) and dead last in the NFC East just one year after winning the division.
With Griffin seemingly healthy, Theismann said he’s cautiously optimistic about the team’s fortunes this season.
He predicts the biggest gains on special teams — “horrific a year ago,” Theismann noted — under the unit’s new coordinator, Ben Kotwica. The defense, in its fifth season under Jim Haslett, should have the continuity to carry the team until the retooled offense catches up. And Griffin, surrounded by an upgraded receiving corps, ought to be able to get rid of the ball more quickly, he noted, which should help with his protection.
“I think he’s much more understanding of his value being on the field as opposed to not being on the field,” Theismann said.
Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.
More from the Post: