Collins, 26, went down early in the second quarter on a third-down play in which he dropped to the line of scrimmage to pressure quarterback Andy Dalton. As Dalton scrambled upfield, Collins, without contact from a Dallas player, suddenly grabbed the back of his calf while crumbling to the ground.
To try to fill the void, Washington promoted practice squad safety Jeremy Reaves to the active roster Tuesday. The team also offered free agent Eric Reid a spot on its practice squad, but Reid declined, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
A 2013 first-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers, Reid signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2018 when Ron Rivera was their coach. Last year, after signing a three-year extension with the team, Reid produced career highs in tackles (130), tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (four). He was released in March and has remained unsigned since.
In 2016, Reid joined then-49ers teammate Colin Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem before games to protest social injustice and police brutality. He continued to take a knee during the anthem with Carolina, and Rivera, now Washington’s coach, has spoken often of the impact Reid had on him and his beliefs.
In September, Rivera also spoke highly of Reid’s on-field ability.
“We’re in a fortunate position where we have Landon Collins,” he told reporters at the time. “A guy like Eric Reid wouldn’t fit us here. But if we didn’t, believe me I’d call him. I think he’s a guy that has the ability to play in this league. Hopefully if somebody needs a strong safety, he’s a guy that they would call.”
Reid told the Associated Press that he texted Rivera on Tuesday to let him know his decision and added: “I’m just not in a place to play on the practice squad right now. If they go a different direction, I’ll be ready.”
Before his injury Sunday, Collins spurred a dominant performance by Washington’s defense with four tackles and a strip-sack that resulted in a safety. In seven starts before the injury, he played nearly every defensive snap and had 24 tackles, two sacks, an interception and a forced fumble. But he also was criticized for the plays he didn’t make; according to Pro Football Focus, Collins missed 10 tackles.
Washington’s secondary was overhauled in the offseason, and Collins — whose six-year, $84 million contract is the largest ever given to a safety — was among its leaders. In place of cornerbacks Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar, Washington signed Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby, and it continued to develop a supporting cast of young holdovers, such as Jimmy Moreland and Fabian Moreau. The team named Troy Apke the starting free safety to open the season but turned to Deshazor Everett in Week 6 and has been pleased with his play.
To take over for Collins on Sunday, Washington turned to seventh-round rookie Kamren Curl, who has started two games but also has been a nickel safety.
“He did a wonderful job in that role,” defensive backs coach Chris Harris said last week. “I’m excited about his development. He’s got the tools to be able to play in our big nickel package when he’s outside and also to play back deep or at strong safety. His versatility is one of the things that I really like about him.”
With five vacancies on the practice squad, plenty of salary cap space to sign a free agent and the trade deadline looming Nov. 3, Rivera has options to bring in outside help and provide the defensive backfield some depth.
“It’s always tough when you lose a good football player,” defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said. “[Collins is] a tough guy, voted a team captain by his peers, and so obviously any time that happens it’s something you have to work to overcome. We’re just going to ask him to heal up and stay positive and we’re going to carry on and continue to expect to play well.”
Collins faces a lengthy recovery.
“With surgery, it’s usually a minimum of six to nine months or so, sometimes even up to a year,” said Kenneth Jung, a foot and ankle surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute who is not treating Collins. “But you would imagine by six to nine months, they’ve rehabbed it enough to where the tendon is strong and they’re going to be able to get some of their explosion back and do high-impact, explosive activities. ... I would imagine by the time preseason is done, however that looks, he’d be pretty close to going 100 percent on it.”