Doctson’s latest setback — a shoulder injury — was the result of an on-field collision with cornerback Josh Norman, who was attempting to break up a pass thrown by quarterback Alex Smith. The Redskins didn’t announce the severity of Doctson’s injury, although a person familiar with Doctson’s status said the pass-catcher “is good,” despite initially being in pain.
“I was just preaching on injuries, and we for sure can’t let him go down like that,” Norman said shortly after practice ended. “Ugh, that was tough to take.”
Hours later, Doctson reassured fans on social media that he was okay, tweeting, “I’m good,” along with the prayer emoji. The team is expected to provide a medical update Thursday.
While it appears the team may have avoided significant trouble in this case, the injury scare was a reminder of how important of a role health will play for an offense that is hoping to take a step forward this season under Smith. This is particularly true for Doctson, a big-play threat who missed almost his entire rookie season in 2016 after being drafted in the first round.
The play took place with nine seconds remaining in the two-minute practice drill, when Smith targeted Doctson on a fourth-and-goal pass from the 5-yard line. The quarterback threw the ball toward the right corner of the end zone, but Doctson, blanketed by Norman, couldn’t haul in the pass with his outstretched fingers. When the receiver fell to the ground, Norman fell on top of him. And while Doctson stayed down on the muddy field, Norman stayed by his side.
“Man, if [Smith] had thrown the ball right here, in his chest, I’m making a play going the other way,” Norman said, recalling the play and the collision that followed. “But he threw it out towards the pylon, so now instead of two hands, you’ve got to go with one hand to try to get the ball out through him. … I think when my hand got into it, we went down to the ground. He landed on his shoulder pretty hard.
“It’s so hard to try to pull back off of that play when you’re a defender,” he added. “It’s a two-minute situation, and you know you’ve got to stop him in order to win the drill, but man. … If I would have known he was going to get hurt, yes, I would have gave up [on the play].”
Wednesday’s injury scare comes on the heels of Doctson having to field questions about his Achilles’ tendon, which caused him to miss 14 games during his rookie season. Although he rebounded last year, playing a full season and catching 35 passes for 502 yards and six touchdowns, Doctson underwent a precautionary MRI exam two days before players reported to Richmond.
He downplayed the procedure, telling reporters: “I’m good. It was nothing. Just a fine tuneup. … Every car gets an oil change, so you’ve just got to check yourself. I knew it was good. I was just checking things out, and I’m good to go.”
But now there’s a chance Doctson could miss practice time with another injury, with only a week before the Redskins’ first preseason game at the New England Patriots on Aug. 9.
“I think in the red zone is where he is going to be most dangerous,” Coach Jay Gruden said when asked about Doctson’s progression within an offense that spreads the football around. “That’s where we’re hoping that he can really dominate in that area of the field and some tight window throws on third down. Just continue to get better and better, and when the ball is there for him and he goes out and makes the tough catches.”
Washington still has more than a month to prepare for its first regular season game, but with a new starting quarterback and higher self-imposed expectations on the field, the Redskins can’t afford to be down a player — especially Doctson.
“A player like him, you definitely don’t want to do that,” Norman said, lamenting his role in Doctson’s injury. “You definitely want to keep him up, keep him fresh and healthy. He’s been ascending, rising and doing everything he’s supposed to do each and every day.”
Doctson’s injury history is extensive, dating back to his college days when he fractured his left hand and left wrist, in 2015.