RICHMOND — There is an emotional toll that comes with injuries, and Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden is feeling it.
The past week of training camp has been costly, and Gruden has taken it a bit personally despite the fluky nature of the incidents.
Three players suffered season-ending knee injuries in three days, none the product of a nasty hit or anything gruesome. Rookie running back Derrius Guice tore his left anterior cruciate ligament at the end of what would have been a 34-yard run in the preseason opener against the New England Patriots on Thursday. Tight end Manassah Garner tore his right ACL in the same game. And wide receiver Robert Davis suffered a posterior cruciate ligament injury, Gruden said Sunday, after getting tangled up with a defender and falling to the turf while fighting for an Alex Smith pass in practice the day before.
“It weighs on me a little bit sometimes,” Gruden said. “I feel like I’m doing something wrong.
“You hate to see anybody get hurt. This time of year, when you’re trying to limit the contact and guys are still going down in a noncontact drill, it’s frustrating.”
The Redskins’ injury plague has continued after the team placed 23 players on injured reserve in 2017. Some of those players are still working their way back in training camp, including tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, running back Chris Thompson and tight end Jordan Reed. First-round draft pick Daron Payne missed more than two weeks with an ankle injury and sat out the first preseason game. Wide receiver Josh Doctson is still limited because of a heel injury suffered in camp.
Those dealing with former injuries are on a “pitch count,” Gruden explained, and the team is monitoring them individually every day to see how their bodies respond the day after a practice. Coaches and trainers meet after individual drills to determine how players feel and if they can participate in full team work, which mimics game action without live tackling.
“It is what it is,” Gruden said. “It’s just pro football. We do the best we can in the training room, in the weight room and practice to take care of these guys. But this is a tough game. Your legs and body gets in contorted angles sometimes and they happen.
“All the ones we’ve had we just have to accept. Derrius was just running and his leg got stuck in the turf wrong. Rob went up and landed funny on his deal. Just so happens that’s the way it is.”
There isn’t much the team can do to avoid these types of injuries. The Redskins invested in additional medical and recovery equipment during the offseason, but torn knee ligaments can’t be prevented the way muscle pulls sometimes can. And players are more likely to get injured if they consciously try to change the way they play in an attempt to avoid getting hurt.
Gruden didn’t play many expected starters against the Patriots but still lost Guice. The rookie was considered a steal as the No. 59 overall pick this spring and was expected to form a 1-2 punch with Thompson, so he needed some live game reps. Davis had a strong camp and was competing to be the fourth or fifth wide receiver. The coaching staff can script practices to avoid a certain amount of dangerous contact, but it can’t treat everyone too cautiously hoping to avoid an injury.
Sometimes it’s just uncontrollable bad luck.
“I think there’s a fine line,” Gruden said. “We still have to practice football. We still have to get these guys ready to play a game.
“So, just try to do the best we can to stay up. Coach great fundamentals. Make sure they get good treatment, hydrate, all that good stuff, and hope for the best.”
Still, these are careers at stake, and teammates also feel the weight. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder called it frustrating despite knowing “it’s a violent game and sometimes you have freak accidents.” Garner has only played one career game and wasn’t able to stick with the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills or Denver Broncos. Davis seemed to be on the verge of making the 53-man roster after spending most of his rookie year on the practice squad. Guice didn’t even make it to his first regular season.
Thompson acknowledged he cried when he first found out about Guice’s diagnosis and teared up again just speaking about it with the media.
There’s plenty of rehab and physical challenges on the horizon, but the mental and emotional toll is just as real.
“There’s a lot of different emotions that come with injuries,” defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan said. “The first one that comes is the shock and the personal empathy that you have for the guy that gets injured. Then it’s kind of like, crap, he’s not only my friend, he’s not only a good person, he’s my teammate and we’re going to lose that productivity from him.
“It’s a tough thing emotionally when a guy goes down.”
Read more on the Redskins: