In the latest development of the coronavirus vaccination conversation dominating training camp, Thomas declined to reveal his status at a news conference Wednesday. The 30-year-old was wearing a mask, though, which is required only for non-vaccinated players. The other two players who spoke, Allen and wide receiver Terry McLaurin, said they were vaccinated but respected the choices of their teammates.
“Everyone has the right to their own opinion,” Thomas said, adding, “I respect anyone’s opinion who does or doesn’t.”
Allen said he doesn’t feel as if any player tried to persuade his teammate to get a vaccine. McLaurin added that his teammates understood they could have to forfeit a game if there were an outbreak among the unvaccinated because the team has explained the rules in several meetings. McLaurin was diplomatic when asked how players balanced their personal health with Coach Ron Rivera’s immunocompromised status.
“We’re all very empathetic to [Rivera’s situation],” the wide receiver said. “I think [Rivera] does a good job of trying to understand where guys are at — whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated. But like I said, I think it’s just a collective thing where guys have to make their own decision but also be mindful of how it could impact our team. I think that’s where it starts. If you choose not to be vaccinated and you have to follow the protocols and do what’s necessary, I think the guys are doing a good job of doing that.”
During the first practice of training camp, it became evident that Washington will spend the foreseeable future trying to find the right combination of safeties to seal up the back end of a defense with elite potential. The unit cycled players through both safety spots — free and strong or left and right, depending on the call — as well as Buffalo nickel, the hybrid linebacker/slot corner position.
Perhaps the most notable presence not just at safety but in all of camp was Collins. The 27-year-old, who tore his left Achilles’ tendon in October, looked almost back to normal as he cut, sprinted and jumped while playing strong safety and some Buffalo nickel during 11-on-11 drills. His recovery, rejection of switching to linebacker and the $16.7 million he’s owed this year — the second most among safeties — make him a pivotal piece to puzzle out.
“He came in in great shape, so he’s ready to roll,” Rivera said. “We’re excited about the competition we’ll have.”
The battle for right tackle, one of the most anticipated of camp, is on hold after the team placed Cornelius Lucas on the covid-19 reserve list Tuesday. Sam Cosmi, the second-round pick from Texas, took almost all of the reps with the first team and will for the foreseeable future. It’s unclear when Lucas will return. These snaps against elite pass rushers will be valuable for Cosmi, a rookie with elite athleticism but inconsistent technique.
When Rivera first put Jamin Davis at Mike linebacker during offseason workouts, it seemed like a test of how much the first-round pick from Kentucky could handle. Now that Rivera has done the same in camp, it seems like an indication Davis could stay there for Week 1.
Mike is a challenging role, a captain and chief communicator for the defense, but when asked whose retention from spring workouts impressed him on Day 1, Rivera did not hesitate.
“Jamin stood out right away,” he said. “And again, he’s one of the guys that we’re counting on to be able to handle these situations and circumstances.”
In base, Washington’s two other first-team linebackers were Cole Holcomb at Sam, meaning he lined up on the side of the tight end, and Jon Bostic at Will. Khaleke Hudson, the 2020 fifth-round pick from Michigan, could push Bostic at Will, but he didn’t receive many first-team reps on Wednesday.
Help wanted: Punt returner. During offseason workouts, Washington had more than half-a-dozen players rotate through the role, which has been a focus this offseason after the unit averaged 5.7 yards per return last year, 27th in the NFL.
In Richmond, receiver Adam Humphries and cornerback Danny Johnson did not participate, and the competition seemed to slim to four receivers: DeAndre Carter, Steven Sims Jr., Dax Milne and Isaiah Wright.
By experience, Carter and Sims figure to have the edge with Milne, a seventh-round pick from Brigham Young, and Wright, an undrafted free agent, on the outside. Carter stood out because he also received quite a few snaps in the slot with the first-team offense, and he and Ryan Fitzpatrick nearly connected on a deep ball down the left sideline.
After inking multiyear contracts hours before the opening of camp, Allen and Thomas expressed relief and gratitude. Both said it meant more because they’re locals; Allen is from Ashburn and Thomas is from Lynchburg. The process had gone on longer for Allen (since early April, he said) than Thomas (early July, he said).
“It was a quick, but a long 12 hours when we really started kicking through it,” Thomas said. “I went to bed at like 2 in the morning, woke up and drove here. I am super excited about it.”
“I know they say it’s not emotional, it’s just business, but this is life-changing money,” Allen said. “It was definitely emotional and personal, but I’m just glad we were able to come to an agreement.”