The Washington Redskins' defense, which has been riddled by injuries since last season, was bolstered yesterday when three key players -- linebacker LaVar Arrington, rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers and nose tackle Brandon Noble -- participated in their first workouts of training camp.
The three passed physicals, which cleared them to be in pads for the first time since camp opened Aug. 1. Rogers -- who returned from foot and ankle injuries -- was the most impressive, participating in all drills and every snap with the first team during 11-on-11 drills, which are the most intense of the practice. Arrington was in every drill except for the 11-on-11 sessions, but only because the training staff was using extra care with his knee.
Noble (staph infection) was in all drills and took four snaps in the 11-on-11 sessions, which included a rugged two-minute drill.
"It's exciting for me because we're getting some guys that are high-quality players for us, and they've been missing for a while," Coach Joe Gibbs said after practice. "So hopefully that [progress] continues at the pace we want it to. And these guys can get ready to actually play here pretty quickly."
The Redskins -- who play at home Friday against the Cincinnati Bengals -- didn't place a timetable on when the three would be ready to play in a game. However, Rogers -- who appears to be the closest to full recovery -- said he will make his NFL debut Friday.
"I know I'm going to play," said Rogers, the ninth overall pick in April's draft. "We cleared it up."
Arrington missed 12 games with a bone bruise that required two surgeries. Warrick Holdman has temporarily taken Arrington's starting spot at weak-side linebacker.
"The plan was to bring [Arrington] back slowly, not just to have him do everything the first day," said Bubba Tyer, director of sports medicine. "Tomorrow if he has no symptoms from his workload today, then we'll ask him to do more."
Arrington hasn't granted an extensive media interview since April, when he publicly complained about the club's handling of his injury, then later admonished reporters for how his comments were construed. Arrington made brief remarks after yesterday's practice, walking hurriedly as he was surrounded by reporters.
"I'm taking it day by day," Arrington said. "I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. I'm taking it one practice, one play at a time. It was a new experience. I was pretty excited. It felt pretty good."
According to players, Arrington's name has hardly been mentioned by Washington's defensive staff during meetings. And he must fit into Gregg Williams's defense, which ranked third in the league last season. Williams stresses discipline instead of the occasionally freelancing style that Arrington used to become a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
But the Redskins' defense, which was mediocre in forcing turnovers last season, should benefit from the return of a playmaker like Arrington. In his first two games last season Arrington had 15 tackles and one sack.
Off the field, Arrington has been involved in discussions with the organization to settle a grievance initially filed March 2004, contending the Redskins omitted $6.5 million in bonuses agreed upon for the 2006 season.
Rogers hadn't practiced since the first day of minicamp June 17 because of a first-degree sprain of his right ankle and a bone bruise. Rogers originally sprained his ankle in May during an offseason workout at Auburn and aggravated the injury at minicamp. Yesterday, Rogers practiced aggressively and didn't seem to worry about his ankle.
"I'm happy to get back in," said Rogers, who practiced with the first team because Walt Harris (calf) wasn't available. "That's how it goes. One goes down, another one has to step up. As corners and safeties, we just need to step up and have each others' back."
Although an old stress fracture was discovered during treatment of the ankle, the Redskins said their main concern was the bone bruise.
"For him to jump right back in there and do what he did, I was encouraged," said defensive backs coach DeWayne Walker. "Slowly but surely we're starting to get guys back. I'm just anxious to see how he feels tomorrow. It's not the first day, usually, it's the second day."
Noble has been recuperating from a staph infection that developed after arthroscopic surgery in April. Noble played every game last season, including seven starts after missing the 2003 season following a serious knee injury that preseason.
"It felt good," Noble said. "I was tired, winded, all those things I expected. But it's a relief. It felt good to get out there and play football again. I actually got to do the two-minute [drill] at the end. And that was interesting. I haven't done a two-minute in a couple of years."
The infection occurred during the first week of team conditioning in late March. Because of swelling in the knee, Noble opted for minor surgery April 26 in order to be ready for organized team activities in May. The infection caused Noble to be treated with intravenous fluids until the end of June. The 6-foot-2, 305-pounder lost considerable weight and strength.
"I'm still a little out of shape and not as strong as I'd like to be," Noble said. "But the nice thing about going through what I went through with my other knee is I know it's all a process. And it will come back. It's not going to be today or tomorrow, but I'll eventually be back to my old self again."