Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo joked Wednesday that the team trainers probably would prefer he still be wearing a sling to protect his surgically-repaired left pectoral muscle. But Orakpo needed to get over the psychological scars of the injury, which he suffered Sept. 16 at St. Louis. He needed to be back at Redskins Park, in the company of his teammates. 

So Orakpo shed the sling earlier this week and has begun rehabbing at the team’s headquarters. The recovery is expected to take 4-6 months, Orakpo said, and he only recently came to grips with the fact he won’t play again this season.

“I just want to be there for my team,” Orakpo said. “I feel like I let the guys down, but it’s something I can’t control. This week I was able to get over that. So I’m just here trying to support my teammates, trying to get the best rehab and the best treatment I can to better my body and get ready for next year.”

When asked what enabled him to clear that mental hurdle, Orakpo said: “Just the realization that I’m not coming back. I would love to come back and help out any way I can, but the facts are the facts. I’m out for the season, and it’s something I have to deal with.”

The Redskins have managed a 3-3 record despite the prolonged absences of Orakpo and several other key defensive components. Washington ranks No. 27 in the NFL in total yards allowed (417.2 ypg) and No. 29 in points allowed (28.8). Orakpo perhaps has been missed most in the Redskins’ pass rush, which has registered 12 sacks (tied for No. 18 in the NFL).

Orakpo, who has tallied 29.5 sacks in a little more than three professional seasons, said he is unaccustomed to missing such a significant amount of playing time. Prior to this year, he had missed only one game due to injury in his NFL career.

After undergoing offseason surgery to correct a partially torn left pectoral muscle he suffered in last season’s final game, Orakpo re-aggravated the injury during the preseason and sat out the final two exhibition games. Still, he played during the season opener at New Orleans and was in the lineup at St. Louis.

“It just wasn’t right,” Orakpo said. “You could see I was always having my wraps and all kinds of different stuff to compensate for the pain I was going through. It just wasn’t right.”

By the end of the calendar year, Orakpo said, “hopefully I’ll be able to get back to doing things regularly.”