Only once so far have the Redskins been right about that. They’re clinging to the conviction this week that Meriweather will be a difference-maker in their secondary when they face the Packers and their standout quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, on Sunday in Green Bay.
“I’d love to have him back,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Thursday at Redskins Park. “I haven’t seen him play for so long, I’m not sure. But hopefully — I said the same thing last week. I thought he was going to play last week and he didn’t. So we’ll see.”
Meriweather has played one of the Redskins’ 17 regular season games since he signed with the team as a free agent prior to last season. He had a series of knee injuries last season, and missed portions of training camp and the preseason this summer as he worked his way back. He played in the preseason finale, then suffered a groin injury last week that caused him to be inactive for Monday night’s season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“It’s been very frustrating,” Meriweather said. “I told you all last year the worst thing is sitting there watching your team go through something and you’re just sitting there watching.”
Meriweather hurt his left knee during the preseason last year. The Redskins thought he’d be back for the 2012 season opener. But he re-injured his knee in practice and didn’t play.
The Redskins penciled in his return for a late-September game at Tampa. But Meriweather was injured again, that time in a bizarre collision with wide receiver Aldrick Robinson during pregame warmups.
The next target for Meriweather was a mid-November game against the Eagles.
Meriweather did play, and played well. But he suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during that game.
Fast forward to this season. Meriweather was on the field for pregame warmups Monday but Coach Mike Shanahan said after the 33-27 defeat to the Eagles that Meriweather’s groin had been too sore for him to play.
Now the Redskins are readying for another prospective Meriweather return, and the player is confident his knee is sound.
“I’m confident in my trainers,” Meriweather said. “I’m confident that they did everything possible to get me ready to play this season. I’m confident that my coaches kept me out long enough and put me in at the right time. I’m confident in myself that I know the playbook well enough and I can go out there and perform whatever my coaches ask of me. I’m confident in everything around me.”
Shanahan said after Meriweather practiced fully Wednesday that he expects him to play Sunday, barring a setback. Meriweather, who also was listed as a full participant in Thursday’s practice, did not dispute that.
“Hey, whatever Coach says, that’s what I go by, man,” he said. “I have no disagreement with Coach, you know. Coach is a smart guy. He knows players. He knows our movements. He knows us very well. So if he feels like I’m ready to go play, I’m gonna go play.”
The Redskins’ nonstop hopes for Meriweather’s return to bolster their defense have seemed, at times, like a pursuit of fool’s gold. But given how well Meriweather performed against the Eagles last season when he did play—with an interception, two pass break-ups and seven tackles—the Redskins remain convinced that their defense will benefit greatly from his presence.
“Absolutely,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “That game he played last year was like he had a star in ‘Mario Brothers.’ You know, you just run through everything, invincible. He was in turbo speed and we were all regular people. So if he can give us half that, I mean, that would be great. He’s gonna be hungry. He’s a smart guy. He’s been around a long time. He’s been in meetings the whole time. So if he can get out there and be healthy and get his confidence back, then I think he’ll help make us a better defense.”
Without Meriweather against the Eagles, the Redskins started a cornerback, E.J. Biggers, at safety alongside rookie Bacarri Rambo. Haslett said Thursday that Biggers’s play Monday wasn’t the problem. But the Redskins struggled to slow down the Eagles, and now they must try to devise a way to deal with Rodgers.
“They’re a good team, especially at home, a dynamic offense,” Cofield said. “He’s arguably the best player in the league, much less quarterback. So, I mean, it’s gonna be tough. We’ve got to really focus on ourselves this week. I think that’s what we learned after last game. We’ve got to iron everything out in-house first, got to be on the same page, got to execute. And if we don’t do that, we don’t have a chance. So I think that’s our focus. He’s gonna make his plays. Hopefully we can make more.”