Washington Redskins defensive linemen say that although he is sorely disappointed, second-year nose tackle Chris Neild was in relatively good spirits a day after it was announced he would miss the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee.
Neild, a seventh-round pick out of West Virginia in 2011, was competing for the backup nose tackle job a year after recording two sacks and 10 tackles in spot duty as a rookie.
The 6-foot-2, 325-pound Neild suffered the injury during 11-on-11 action Monday, and Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Tuesday that an MRI revealed the torn ACL.
Fellow linemen were surprised at the severity of Neild’s injury. After hobbling off the field under his own power, he was checked by a trainer, and then watched the rest of practice with his knee wrapped.
“On the field, he asked me how did I feel when I tore mine,” said defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who tore his ACL last preseason and missed the entire 2011 campaign. “[Neild] said he felt a pop, but he didn’t think it was that serious. . . I thought he would be straight, because when I tore mine, I heard it, and I couldn’t even walk on it. I guess he’s tougher than me! He wasn’t squinting or anything.”
Jenkins spoke briefly with Neild, and offered encouragement.
Fellow defensive end Adam Carriker said that he also spoke to Neild briefly while Neild received treatment on Tuesday. Carriker missed the entire 2009 season after shoulder surgery.
“The good thing is he’s young and he’ll heal faster and come back faster. They say six months to a year,” Carriker said. “. . . This is going to sound weird, because we want him out there during the season. But for injuries’ sake, if you do it at the beginning of the year, now he’s got the season plus the offseason to come back. Obviously, we would rather him be playing and helping us with games. But the earlier you do it, the more time he has to recover before next season.”
Neild wasn’t seen at Redskins Park during the open locker room media session Wednesday morning. But he sent a message on Twitter in response to the encouragement he had received from fans and teammates.
“Thank you everybody for the kind words and regards. Leavin’ myself no choice but to come back from this setback a better player,” Neild wrote.
Neild contributed on the kickoff return team in addition to defense. The Redskins took solace in the fact that their depth along the defensive line is better this year than it was last year.
“We understand that you need depth in order to be successful for 16 weeks, because of the way we play and how fast and physical we play,” said defensive end Kedric Golston. “The more depth you have, the more opportunities there are for people to get rest and come out there and play that much harder.”
For a backup to starter Barry Cofield, the Redskins likely will lean most heavily on Chris Baker, who spent all of last year on the practice squad but is having a strong preseason.
“It’s a big opportunity for me to step up and be the player I know I can be,” said Baker, who has played in two NFL games since 2009. “I hate to see Chris go down the way it happened, but when one man goes down another man needs to step up. I just have to step up and do what I can do.”
Staff writers Steve Yanda and Matt Breen contributed to this report.