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Curtis Samuel, after his first catch at home, says he’s ready to stay in WFT’s lineup

Washington Football Team wide receiver Curtis Samuel returned to action for Monday's defeat of the Seattle Seahawks at FedEx Field. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

In the second quarter Monday, nearly three months later than he had hoped, Curtis Samuel caught his first pass in front of his new team’s fans. The Washington Football Team wide receiver snagged a swing pass, sprinted forward nine yards and got clocked by Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks, prompting some in the crowd to flinch.

But Samuel didn’t stay down. The 25-year-old who was signed to a big contract this past offseason to be an explosive weapon on offense, whose lingering groin injury frustrated the fan base and himself, popped to his feet and threw up his arms, urging the FedEx Field crowd to join him in the moment.

“I just felt the energy,” Samuel said. “I got hit pretty good. I got up. I wanted to show the crowd that I'm still here.”

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In 20 snaps, Samuel had one target (the reception) and one rush (for four yards). On Wednesday, he said he felt sore but good — adding that he has worked hard in his rehab and that his role will continue to grow. Washington may need as much of his skill set as he can offer Sunday because the Las Vegas Raiders have one of the league’s most explosive offenses and Washington, while successful on offense overall, has not generated many chunk plays during its three-game winning streak.

But the team will be cautious to make this return stick. The first time Samuel tried to come back, in Week 4 at Atlanta, Coach Ron Rivera played him 25 snaps, more than the limit the team set before the game, and he aggravated the injury after five snaps the next week. It’s unclear what Samuel’s snap count will be Sunday, whether he will have one — Samuel said he doesn’t ask because he prepares to play every play — but Rivera saw flashes of what the wideout can be.

“We saw Curtis’s explosiveness,” he said. “A couple of times, he was very close and they were able to make the play and get him down. It’s coming. The more he gets back into the swing of things, the better he’s going to get for us.”

Washington designated Samuel as “limited” at practice Wednesday. He ran several routes in the portion open to reporters, and afterward he said he feels his groin getting stronger and the fluidity of his routes returning.

“I feel good,” he added. “I'm able to run fast. I'm able to cut. I'm able to play without thinking about my injury. That's the main thing is I'm able to go out there confidently.”

If Samuel can stay on the field, he not only would give Washington another versatile playmaker alongside wide receiver Terry McLaurin and running back Antonio Gibson, but it might signal the end of a long saga that began after he injured his groin during offseason workouts.

In June, Samuel had core muscle surgery and hoped to return by the season opener. He wanted to justify his three-year, $34.5 million deal and prove himself to a new fan base but kept suffering setbacks — first with a 10-day stint on the reserve/covid-19 list in training camp. He said he pushed himself to return, wanting to make “a huge impact coming to a new team,” but then after his setback following the Falcons game, he missed more time.

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In late November, Samuel went back to William Meyers, the surgeon who operated on him the first time, and received a steroid and anti-inflammatory injection. He called that the key to his return Monday.

“I was able to cut and do more without so much pain,” he said. “It was really tough the last couple weeks just trying to run around and do stuff [with] that pain. That helped a lot, and it gave me the confidence to go out there last week.”

After the game, Samuel said he felt “pretty good” about his play against Seattle. He particularly liked a few blocks he made in the running game because it helped him get back the physicality of football he had missed. He said he’s excited to keep contributing however he can — and that he has come to terms with the rocky start to his tenure in Washington.

“I put a lot of stress on myself in the beginning trying to come back,” Samuel said. “But now I’m pretty much at ease because I really can’t help my team if I’m trying to go out there and play hurt. So my thing is just to be healthy and take care of my body and take care of myself — and then that’ll help the team.”

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