Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. was medically cleared and will return to practice Wednesday, with the expectation he’ll be activated from the non-football injury list, Coach Ron Rivera said Monday.
“I’m optimistic about it, just in listening to everything I’ve heard,” Rivera said. “It’s very promising. But … the plan is to start his clock on Wednesday and see how he does, and if he continues to progress, there’s a very good chance he’ll be able to play on Sunday.”
Once a player on the non-football injury list returns to practice, his team has three weeks to decide whether it will place him on the active roster or leave him on the list for the rest of the season.
Robinson’s progress in recovery has pointed to a swift return once his mandated four weeks on the list expired. But his reintroduction to padded practices and his football conditioning could determine how soon he’ll be available to play.
“We also got to handle what he’s going to go through physically and mentally,” Rivera said. “I mean, this is a different set of circumstances. I don’t know of any other player that I’ve coached that’s had to go through this.”
On the evening of Aug. 28, Robinson was shot twice, in the knee and hip area, in what D.C. police described as an armed robbery attempt by two male assailants. Robinson was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and he underwent surgery the following day.
According to Rivera, the bullet in Robinson’s knee avoided any ligaments, tendons or bones, allowing for a quicker recovery than if he had needed a more extensive repair.
Robinson was back at the team’s facility two days after the shooting, using crutches and sporting a bag of Oreos for his fellow running backs. And roughly two weeks later, he was riding a stationary bike and working with an athletic trainer during practice to regain his strength and agility.
On Sept. 25, less than a month after he was shot, Robinson ran routes during warmups ahead of Washington’s Week 3 meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field, a promising sign of his continued recovery.
A third-round pick out of Alabama, Robinson arrived in Washington as a potential boost to a running backs room that already featured Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic. But Robinson quickly proved he could be much more throughout organized team activities and training camp. Before his injuries, he was in line to earn time as a starter — perhaps on a rotating basis with Gibson, depending on the weekly game plan.
Rivera envisioned having a dynamic set of rushers who could complement one another in skill set and size, much like the group he had with Carolina.
The loss of Robinson just before the season opener was a blow to the Commanders’ initial offensive plans, but they adjusted by keeping Jonathan Williams on the active roster to give them a back with a similar playing style and size. Robinson’s return creates uncertainty for Williams — Rivera did not say whether he will stay on the 53-man roster once Robinson is activated — but a jolt to the offense could not come at a better time.
Washington is reeling after three consecutive losses, including two to NFC East opponents. The offense that impressed in Week 1 fizzled in subsequent weeks and now leads the league in sacks allowed (17) and has the lowest yards per play (4.61).
If there’s a bright spot, it has been the running game, which picked up 142 yards (5.3 per carry) against the Cowboys. Robinson’s delayed debut should only add to the attack.
“If we can continue to establish the run, it’s going to help with the passing game, which is going to slow down the pass rush, which is going to open some things up,” Rivera said. “If you can get the pass rushers going sideways, it slows it down a little bit. And any time there’s the dual threat of a run-pass, it plays to our benefit. We’ve got to get to that. We’ve got to get better at that.”
Two more starters out?
Rivera said rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson could be out for “a week or two” after suffering a hamstring injury against the Cowboys, and multiple people with knowledge of the situation said right tackle Sam Cosmi suffered a hand injury and could also miss time. Cosmi is expected to see a doctor Tuesday to learn more.
Rivera said he feels “tremendous frustration” about the litany of injuries his team has suffered. Many players were sidelined during training camp, and key players on both sides of the ball were still recovering as the season began.
“To lose a player of Jahan’s caliber who’s done a lot of good things for you, that’s even more frustrating,” Rivera said.
On the clock
Washington also will start the clock on center Tyler Larsen. He was on the physically unable to perform list because of an Achilles’ injury, and his return should bolster the offensive line after it lost starting center Chase Roullier (knee) and backup Wes Schweitzer (concussion) earlier in the season.
On the mend
Chase Young is still recovering from his ACL injury. The defensive end is technically eligible to return to practice this week and begin his 21-day activation window, but Rivera said Young needs more time and will continue to work on the side at practice with trainers.
“He’s been doing very well, has been trending in the right direction,” Rivera said. “… We have to wait and see where he is after this week. But the doctors are optimistic. They’ve been pretty promising as far as their reports. It’s just that they feel he needs a little bit more time.”