No player might have been more important to the Washington Redskins’ offensive plans this season than tight end Jordan Reed. After years of fighting injuries, he came to training camp in what he said was “the healthiest” condition he had been in many seasons. He dominated so much in training camp that the coaches imagined a huge season for a man who had once been one of the league’s best tight ends.
Then came his first preseason game, when Reed caught a pass over the middle of the field in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Falcons’ Keanu Neal smashed his head into Reed’s, sending Reed’s helmet flying. Soon after what was the Redskins’ third preseason game, Reed was diagnosed with a concussion — the latest of many in his career. And now nothing about Reed seems certain to the Redskins anymore.
A member of the Redskins’ organization with knowledge of Reed’s situation downplayed a Sunday ESPN report that said many around the team worry Reed’s career “is in jeopardy,” calling the report “overstated.” But Reed has not participated in a full practice or played in a game since suffering the concussion a month ago and will miss Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears. Despite early optimism that Reed would be back by the start of the regular season, no one seems to know when he will return.
The issue seems to confound Reed and the Redskins. He has come to several practices and taken part in individual drills — usually a step toward being cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol — telling teammates and bystanders that he feels “great” and expects to play in that weekend’s game, only to disappear from late-week workouts, having never received clearance.
As Reed continues to show concussion symptoms, Coach Jay Gruden’s tone has changed from the early assurances that Reed would be “okay.” On Thursday, he said, “We’re just taking it very slowly, making sure he goes through the right process to make sure it’s right before he goes back on the field.”
People around the team talk a lot about prioritizing Reed’s long-term health over the team’s need to have its best pass-catching tight end on the field or Reed’s own desire to play. But according to two people with knowledge of the team’s thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, there is also frustration over the uncertainty that comes with having a player in the concussion protocol — especially a player who has had seven documented concussions in his college and NFL career.
With the team 0-2, Gruden’s job may be on the line, and he doesn’t know when he can use his most dynamic offensive player. Each week, Gruden and his coaches draw up a game plan with several unique plays designed for Reed, teased with the hope of being able to use them only to throw them away at week’s end. Adding to the frustration is the uncertainly that comes from the league’s mandate that a player can’t play until cleared by a doctor independent of the team. Team officials understand why such a rule exists, but it adds to the unpredictability of Reed’s situation.
They know, for instance, that running back Derrius Guice is out for at least half the season and that linebacker Reuben Foster won’t be back at all. They can figure there is a good chance that defensive end Jonathan Allen will return from his sprained knee soon. Their doctors and trainers can provide updates. But they have no idea how Reed will feel a day after going through half of a practice, and there is no one to tell them when he will be good to return.
“I think we all know exactly where he fits in this system, the versatility and the things he can do for the other people in our offense around him as well as help out the quarterback, being the target that he is,” offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said Friday. “We feel really good about that plan when we get Jordan back, but that’s obviously something we let the medical staff and Coach Gruden focus on. We’re just trying to make sure for Monday night we’re ready to roll and we feel really good about it.”
Kareem Copeland contributed to this report.
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