Jason Hatcher ‘excited’ to return to practice field

Jason Hatcher

Jason Hatcher, shown working on individual drills last week, was given the green light to practice Saturday. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — Washington Redskins defensive end Jason Hatcher joined his teammates on the practice field on Saturday after spending the first two weeks of training camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list as he recovered from knee surgery.

One of Washington’s highest-profile free agent acquisitions this offseason, Hatcher had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on June 20. The last two weeks completed a seven-week rehabilitation process, and after passing a physical on Saturday, the 6-foot-6, 299-pound Hatcher received the green light to practice.

“I’m real excited, man,” Hatcher said after practice. “It feels like forever since I’ve been on the field.”

The Redskins handled Hatcher with care on Saturday, and they will continue to bring him along slowly.

For his first practice, the defensive end took part only in individual drills. He will continue to do so for the next week before receiving permission to take part in team drills.

Hatcher will not play in the team’s second preseason game on Aug. 18 against Cleveland. But it’s possible that he will suit up for the third preseason game on Aug. 23 at Baltimore.

“Slowly but surely. … We’ll see how he does,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. “It depends on how he feels after he trains, and make sure there’s no other damage, or what have you. But he’s coming along very well.”

The Redskins lured Hatcher away from the Dallas Cowboys in March after the 11th-year veteran recorded a career year with 11 sacks, 41 tackles and three pass breakups. Washington awarded Hatcher a four-year, $27.5 million deal that includes $10.5 million guaranteed money — all of which is owed to him this season.

Until last season, Hatcher had never had more than 4.5 sacks in a season. But Redskins coaches and officials believe that if all goes according to their plans, he can thrive in a role that is tailored to him and significantly bolster Washington’s pass-rush efforts.

“We brought him here to rush the passer,” Gruden said, later adding: “Jason is going to be another element to [our pass rush]; an inside presence pass-rushing. … He’s a dominant player. He’s going to be an added impact to our team once he gets healthy.”

Because of the expectations set for him, Hatcher wrestled with whether or not to have surgery after experiencing problems with his knee during the offseason program.

He ultimately decided that rather than try to baby the knee off and on throughout the season, he would have the arthroscopic surgery so he could enter the season without lingering soreness or swelling.

“As a new guy who had just gotten signed, it was kind of a big deal,” he said discussing the dilemma he faced. “You, being a human, you think, ‘I just got here, and what will my teammates think? What will the GM, and owner think?’ It was a big thing and decision to make, but I’m glad I did it.

“It was one of those things where we sit down and discuss if I wanted to manage it every game,” Hatcher also said. “After every game, I have to rehab and get it right. But the bad outweighed the good, so I had the procedure done. I’m happy with the way it’s responded, but I have a long way to go.”

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

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