For the second time in as many weeks, a Washington Commanders player abruptly retired. Coach Ron Rivera said Friday that Tre Walker, an undrafted rookie linebacker from the University of Idaho, told him retirement was “something [he had] been thinking about. There were some things he wanted to get back to, so he decided it was time to move on.”
Rivera said two retirements in one training camp is not unusual.
“It happens,” he added. “It really does happen.”
Though the departure of an undrafted rookie might seem minor, this one is notable. Walker had a real chance to make the roster. Since the draft, Rivera has maintained the team was not pursuing a veteran linebacker because it wanted more snaps for three promising rookies (Walker, Drew White of Notre Dame and Bryce Notree of Southern Illinois).
But now — following Walker’s retirement and White’s ACL tear — only Notree remains. Washington has six other linebackers on the roster, with a clear hierarchy between the first tier (Cole Holcomb and Jamin Davis), second (David Mayo and Khaleke Hudson) and third (De’Jon Harris and Milo Eifler). Washington ran a goal-line package Friday with Holcomb and Mayo, not Davis, on the field, but it didn’t continue in 11-on-11.
“Well, [this is] going to prompt us to obviously look at [linebackers],” Rivera said. “[Walker’s] a young guy that we did like, that we thought had some ability. Really good tape coming out of Idaho. It's unfortunate, but if the young man has something else he wants to do, then he's going to go on and do it.”
Washington doesn’t have many options to upgrade one of its weakest positions. Dallas scooped up one of the best linebackers left on the market Thursday by signing Anthony Barr to a one-year deal reportedly worth up to $3 million. If the Commanders target veterans, candidates could include Joe Schobert, A.J. Klein and Reggie Ragland.
Wide receiver Curtis Samuel (conditioning), cornerback William Jackson III (hamstring), right guard Trai Turner (quadriceps), defensive end James Smith-Williams (hip), tight end John Bates (calf), tight end Sammis Reyes (hamstring) and wide receiver Dyami Brown were among those to miss part or all of practice.
Rivera said swing tackle Cornelius Lucas, who remains on the non-football illness list, is “coming along well.”
During individual drills, tight end Cole Turner ran a route on the wet grass and winced in pain after one cut, seeming to favor his left leg. In 11-on-11, safety Percy Butler hit Turner hard on a short route, and Turner limped off, holding his left hamstring. Turner sat in the medical tent, and Bates, who hasn’t yet practiced during camp, came over and sat next to him. Turner eventually returned to the field.
Offense sloppy during physical goal-line drills
In Washington’s first padded goal-line drill of camp, the offense looked sloppy, with multiple drops and turnovers. On one fourth-and-goal situation, running back Antonio Gibson and quarterback Carson Wentz flubbed the exchange, and Gibson fumbled. On another, a pass glanced off the hands of reserve running back Reggie Bonnafon and landed in the hands of reserve corner Channing Stribling.
In other periods, Gibson fumbled again, running back Jonathan Williams fumbled, and corner Kendall Fuller dropped a would-be interception that Wentz had thrown straight to him. Part of the imprecision may have been because of the personnel. One example: Because so many tight ends were hurt, undrafted rookies Curtis Hodges and Armani Rogers took the majority of the first-team reps.
Wentz has looked up and down all camp, and he noticeably struggled Friday. It was most apparent during seven-on-seven. In past practices, Wentz has usually shined in seven-on-seven, even when he has later struggled during drills with a pass rush (nine-on-nine or 11-on-11). But on Friday, Wentz missed several easy throws in seven-on-seven, including a short in route to Terry McLaurin that Wentz skipped behind the wideout.
Even when offensive coordinator Scott Turner tried to scheme easier looks for Wentz, such as on play action or a bootleg, he couldn’t find a rhythm. Once, as defensive end Montez Sweat chased down Wentz on a bootleg, Sweat yelled something that could be interpreted as a taunt or genuine advice: “Get rid of it! Get rid of it!”
Scherff plays down Washington reunion
On Thursday, reporters in Jacksonville asked right guard Brandon Scherff if he felt extra motivation to face his former team in the season opener. Washington drafted Scherff fifth in 2015 and franchise-tagged him twice before letting him walk in March.
“Actually, not really,” Scherff said. “I had a great time and a great experience in Washington, and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for all the coaches that I played with … there. For me, Week 1 is another game that I have to get myself ready for, and, you know, we just got to show up and get ready to play because they’re a heck of a team.”