Running back Rob Kelley practiced wearing a protective vest under his jersey, while linebacker Mason Foster shed the harness that had kept his right shoulder from popping out of its socket in the late stages of Sunday's victory at the Los Angeles Rams.
Of the six Washington Redskins starters who suffered significant injuries in the 27-20 upset (Kelley and Foster among them), all but tight end Jordan Reed strapped on shoulder pads and helmets Wednesday to join practice to whatever extent their injuries permitted, with an eye toward Sunday night's game against the Oakland Raiders at FedEx Field.
"Yep, we're a little banged up," said cornerback Josh Norman, who sprained a shoulder joint. "See if we can't get patched up for this game because it's a big one. Everybody is going to need to be [all] hands on deck for this one."
Coach Jay Gruden gave his squad two days off — a rarity during the regular season — after their cross-country flight landed shortly after 3 a.m. Monday in hopes it would help them reknit after the pummeling at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Reed, who proved to be quarterback Kirk Cousins's most reliable target against the Rams, catching all six balls thrown his way, is Gruden's chief concern. The coach offered no prognosis on his injuries, which include damaged rib cartilage and a shoulder sprain (the sternoclavicular joint).
"The plan is, we've got to get him healthy," Gruden said. "The concern is, he's not healthy right now."
While injuries are an inevitable part of every NFL season, Week 3 is a bit early to have more than one-fourth of the starting lineup nursing significant injuries. In the Redskins' case, it's also bad timing, considering their upcoming opponent: The Raiders (2-0), who lead the NFL in scoring (35.5 points) and rank fourth in total offense (384.5 yards), fifth in rushing (144.5) and 13th in passing (240).
"Their team as a whole is a bodacious, swagger group!" Norman gushed. "They're kind of like bringing that old Raiders-style football back into play."
Led by quarterback Derek Carr, the Raiders offense will no doubt test the Redskins defense. Carr has thrown for 492 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree (three touchdowns) is averaging 13.6 yards per catch, and running back Marshawn Lynch, 31, appears rejuvenated by the return to his hometown.
"There's nothing they're not doing well," Gruden said of the Raiders offense. "They can throw it, they can run it, so there you have it. They have a big, powerful offensive line. They have a couple tight ends that can come in and maul you. They have great play actions, and their receivers can get down the field. And Derek [Carr] does an unbelievable job at giving them opportunity balls, and they come down with the majority of them."
It presents a significant challenge for Redskins linebackers and defensive backs, and each unit has at least one ailing starter.
Foster, who was limited in practice Wednesday with his shoulder injury, insisted he felt good and is diligently doing the exercises trainers have assigned to ensure his right shoulder stays strong and intact.
"You want to play!" Foster said. "This is a big game on Sunday night. Any chance I get to play football, take it."
Norman indicated every intention of playing, too, despite his shoulder sprain.
Prime-time games against the NFL's best teams drive him, he explained. "It's how you match up," Norman said. "It's their physicality against yours; their wit against your wit. See who comes out victorious that night. We're going to clash, and we're going to battle."
The Redskins offense has a major role to play in slowing the Raiders, too.
If Gruden's offense can run the ball as effectively as it did against the Rams — rolling up 229 yards and dominating the time of possession (36:19 to 23:41)—it would go a long way toward muzzling Carr.
But Kelley, the starting back, is a question mark, given his rib injury. And though third-down back Chris Thompson was invaluable in toppling the Rams, zipping around defenders to score the Redskins' first two touchdowns, Gruden is adamant about not running his 5-8, 191-pound playmaker into the ground — regardless of Kelley's availability.
"It's important for us to keep him healthy," Gruden said of Thompson. "He's not a guy that I personally want to give 30 carries a game. He probably wants it but he probably won't get it."
Kelley, meanwhile, insists he's improving. It has been three days since he injured his ribs falling hard on a teammate's knee, but he can already sleep normally, rather than sitting up, he explained. He can also turn to either side, talk and take full breaths without much discomfort — all encouraging signs.
He'll continue experimenting with the vest during practice this week. But if he can safely play without it Sunday, that's his plan.
"I want to play," Kelley said. "Anytime my team steps on the field, I want to be out there."