BALTIMORE – If his Instagram is any indication, Redskins tight end Niles Paul has fully recovered from his shoulder injury. He was in Thailand on vacation two weeks ago, doing back flips off boats into Maya Bay, just four months after surgery to repair a torn labrum and a dislocated left shoulder.
Paul, 27, hasn’t been cleared yet as a precaution, but he believes he’ll be ready to go for the start of offseason practices as he enters his sixth NFL season.
“Compared to my ankle, it’s night and day,” Paul said at the Ed Block Courage award reception on Saturday in Baltimore. “I’m good. I’m traveling. I’m doing back flips off boats, so this is an easy injury and I’m overcoming it. I feel like I’ve overcame it. If it was up to me, I would have been cleared a month ago, but Larry, Elliott [Jermyn] and Chad [Englehart] know me. They know how hard I work, and they don’t want me to overdo it because I’m still four months out of surgery. I feel 100 percent.”
It’s been a difficult two years for Paul, who was voted by his teammates last year for the Ed Block award after he missed the entire 2015 season with an ankle injury. Unfortunately, the announcement occurred on the same week Paul was placed on injured reserve because of the left shoulder injury in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals in London. He played just eight games in 2016 as the team’s fullback and third tight end behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis.
“It’s definitely bittersweet because I know where I was mentally and physically when I broke my ankle and what I had to go through just to get where I’m at now,” Paul said. “Overcoming that was probably one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do in my career. Just imagine playing football all of your life and then not being able to do what you love. You’ve just got to sit back and watch other people do what you love and watch other people shine in the position that you thought you were supposed to shine in at.”
Paul said he persevered through the ankle injury with the support of tight ends coach Wes Phillips and Englehart, who was promoted as Washington’s head strength and conditioning coach this offseason. While it’s been a hectic offseason at Redskins Park, Paul was pleased that Phillips didn’t leave the team despite rampant speculation in January suggesting he would join former Redskins offensive coordinator and current Los Angeles Rams Coach Sean McVay’s staff with his father, Wade. The first month in the offseason came and went with Phillips still on the Redskins’ staff as he enters his fourth season with the franchise.
“People were telling me and tweeting me that Wes was gone,” Paul said. “I was like, ‘Nah, Coach Wes ain’t leaving. I ain’t heard that.’ Coach Wes was like, ‘Nah! What are you talking about!’ I was like good, but we’re here to play football. We let the Redskins organization deal with everything else they’ve got going on. As long as I’m on this team and whoever else is on this team, that’s what we focused on. We’re focused on football.
“It’s be a pretty hectic time. Coach Wes eached out to all of us, and he let us know that everything isn’t what it always seems. I didn’t know what was going on at Redskins Park. I feel like the people, the fans and the media, know more than the players. I feel like you guys inform us about what’s going on. At the end of the day, we’re a professional football team. We’ve got to go out there and do our jobs, and we can’t let anything off-field distract us from what we need to do and the work we have to put in to get to where we need to be next season.”