Defensive reinforcements arrived for the Washington Redskins just as the team’s bye week was commencing.
Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson participated in Tuesday’s practice at Redskins Park, with their four-game suspensions for their violations of the NFL’s drug policies having expired. It was the team’s final practice of the week, and players are now off until Monday. The Redskins next play Oct. 13 at Dallas.
By then, the Redskins hope, Jenkins and Jackson will be ready to provide a boost to the defense.
“We’ve got a lot of starting experience,” Jenkins said. “Even though we’re not starting now, we can still come in with that mentality that we had last year of producing. I think we’re gonna get it going.”
The Redskins were granted one-week roster exemptions for Jackson and Jenkins. Even so, the team announced Tuesday it had released place kicker John Potter and defensive end Phillip Merling. Potter had filled in for injured kicker Kai Forbath for three games. But the Redskins appear confident Forbath will return from his groin injury following the bye.
Jackson was suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Under the terms of that policy, he was able to be at the team’s training facility during his suspension. That wasn’t the case for Jenkins, who was suspended for a violation of the sport’s policy on banned performance-enhancing substances. Jenkins had to be away from the team.
“I really didn’t feel disconnected,” Jenkins said. “Even though I wasn’t here, my [fellow defensive] linemen still texted me. I was still texting a lot of guys. . . . I was a little out of the loop because I wasn’t there. But the communication was still there.”
Jackson’s return could be more seamless, given he was around the team while suspended.
“It helped a lot,” Jackson said following Tuesday’s practice. “Coming back now, I didn’t know what to expect. But having seen the coaches daily, seeing the players daily, that helped out a lot also.”
Coach Mike Shanahan said the Redskins ran 25 to 30 plays during Tuesday’s practice. Players did conditioning work at the end of the practice, and Shanahan said of Jenkins and Jackson: “We ran them pretty good, and they looked in good shape.”
Shanahan also said: “It’s good to have them back. They were out there today in practice getting back in football shape. I know they’ve been working out hard. But it’s good to get started after the bye week with both of them.”
Jenkins was to be a starter at defensive end this season. It remains to be seen whether he will reclaim his starting job immediately upon his return.
“I’ve got to come in and blend in right away,” Jenkins said. “I can’t come in to be that weak link. They’ll be like, ‘Jarvis hasn’t been working out.’ I based my workouts on coming in and making an impact. . . . I’ve just got to keep working hard this bye week. [My teammates] are gonna take a break. I’m not. I’m gonna stay here and work out with the guys and be ready to go next week.”
Jenkins said he worked out at a local gym twice per day, four times a week during his suspension. He recorded the telecasts of the Redskins’ games and watched them several times each, he said. It wasn’t pleasant viewing when the defense allowed opponents to pile up yards at an alarming rate during the team’s 0-3 start.
“It was definitely tough, knowing that I could probably help those guys overcome that,” Jenkins said. “But I was suspended, and I’m back now. We’ll try to make a run for it like we did last year.”
The Redskins took a step in that direction by winning Sunday at Oakland, a game in which the defense had seven sacks and rookie cornerback David Amerson returned an interception for a touchdown.
Jenkins said he expects it will take him a few more practices to regain his sharpness on the field.
“It’s gonna take a couple days,” he said. “But I’m gonna be ready by the time Dallas comes. . . . It’s gonna be all eyes on me, waiting for me to mess up, waiting for me to do something wrong because I haven’t been on the field. It’s just not making those mental errors. . . . You can do all the running you want. But once you get in the trenches, it’ll be kind of tough. It’ll take me about two more days, but it’ll be back to normal before you know it.”
Jackson received a heavy dose of playing time last season with outside linebacker Brian Orakpo injured and finished second on the team with 4.5 sacks. He also tied for second on the team with four interceptions. Now, with Orakpo back in the lineup, Jackson must work his way back into the playing rotation.
“Today I didn’t feel rusty at all,” Jackson said. “It was pretty simple. We ran the base plays. So I just reacted, and I felt like I didn’t miss a beat today.”