Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo has fully healed from the torn left pectoral muscle that sidelined him for the bulk of the 2012 season, and the fifth-year pro practiced without limitation as the Redskins continued their offseason practices on Thursday.
Orakpo, who tore the muscle early in Washington’s Week 2 game at St. Louis and had to have surgery to repair it, hasn’t been limited during any of the last four weeks of offseason conditioning and strength training at Redskins Park.
And this week, when players hit the field for full-squad practices, Orakpo returned to his spot at the right outside linebacker position, and reported no complications. Pads aren’t permitted, so there is no tackling, but Orakpo said he feels better than he did last season when he was coming back from his initial pectoral tear that he suffered in Week 17 of the 2011 season. Coach Mike Shanahan agreed.
“He’s looked good. He’s had no setback at all,” Shanahan said. “He’s been going full speed the last four weeks. He looks as good as ever. Hopefully he can keep that up. He was hurt last year. You could see there was some soreness in there. Right now you can tell it’s completely healed, and hopefully there’s no setback.”
Without their top pass rusher last season, the Redskins ranked 30th in the league when it came to stopping teams through the air. They believe that with Orakpo back in the mix, their defense will improve significantly.
Orakpo, who is entering the final year of his contract but hopes to work out an extension with the team, entered last season poised for a breakout. The injury prevented that from happening, but now he feels like he is ready to pick up where he left off.
“I feel like I haven’t missed a beat at all. We’re learning some new concepts as a defense, but we still have the same terminology, the same scheme,” Orakpo said. “But my footwork is there and getting better. Pass coverage, I’m getting better in that as well. So I feel good. I’ve worked extremely hard since September when I went down. I’m excited to be back out here.”
Backup nose tackle Chris Neild, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in training camp, also returned to the field in full capacity during this week’s OTA session.
Meanwhile, five other starters in addition to quarterback Robert Griffin III, ranked among a group of players that worked off to the side under the observation of trainer Larry Hess and strength coach Ray Wright and assistant Chad Englehart.
Inside linebacker London Fletcher, strong safety Brandon Meriweather, right cornerback Josh Wilson, tight end Fred Davis and wide receiver Pierre Garcon went through conditioning drills to start Thursday’s practice session, and proceeded to strength and explosion drills.
Fletcher is rehabbing from surgery to repair an elbow and ankle, Meriweather a torn ACL, Wilson a torn labrum and pectoral muscle, Garcon a torn labrum and Davis a torn Achilles’ tendon. The only player that did not take part in any onfield rehab was defensive end Adam Carriker, who still is rehabbing from a quad tendon tear suffered in Week 2, and to which he suffered a setback this offseason.
Shanahan said Davis, who missed nine games in 2012, and Garcon, who this offseason opted against surgery to repair ligaments in the second toe of his right foot, are both around 90 percent healed from their offseason procedures. The coach estimated that they will be fully healed soon, but expects that both will be held out of action until the start of training camp as a precaution.
Meanwhile, Shanahan let Fletcher know that it was fine if the 38-year-old sat out all three weeks of OTAs, but the linebacker informed him that wouldn’t be necessary.
“I told him to kind of stay out of the OTAs, and he told me, ‘Mike, I think I’ll be ready to go on Tuesday. … I think I need that extra week or two weeks to be where I want to be when I get to camp,’” Shanahan relayed. “That gives you the type of insight into what kind of guy you’re dealing with. But he’s been that way. He tells you he’s going to be in shape, he’ll be in shape.”
Shanahan believes that Meriweather, who tore his ACL in Week 11, will be a full participant by the start of training camp.
Running backs Roy Helu Jr. (Achilles’ tendon, toe) and Chris Thompson (knee), tight end Jordan Reed (knee), offensive linemen Josh LeRibeus (groin) and Maurice Hurt (groin), linebacker Keenan Robinson (torn pectoral muscle), cornerback Chase Minnifield (ACL) and safety Jordan Bernstine (knee) also worked on the side, going through rehab.
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