Three weeks removed from the fifth diagnosed concussion of his football career, Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed took limited part in practice Wednesday, proclaimed himself “symptom-free” and is preparing to join teammates for Thursday’s seven-hour flight to London, where they will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium.
Reed, 26, hasn’t been cleared to play Sunday. He remains in the NFL’s concussion protocol and, along with cornerback Josh Norman, will be evaluated Thursday by an independent doctor who will decide whether either can safely sustain the inevitable physical contact of game day or needs more recovery time.
“If they’re cleared, they’ll go on the trip,” Coach Jay Gruden said. “If they’re not cleared, if we’re still having some pain and setbacks, at that point we’ll make that decision to probably leave them back.”
Reed has missed the past two games with lingering symptoms of a concussion suffered in the Oct. 9 victory at Baltimore. Norman, 28, was diagnosed with his third concussion in three years in Sunday’s loss at Detroit.
Reed told reporters Wednesday that the familiar aftereffects of a concussion — the lingering headaches and the nausea — were gone. “I feel back to normal; I feel like my normal self,” Reed said, with the lights of a TV camera shining on his upturned face. “I was staying patient and staying prayed up and things like that and getting ready for [the symptoms] to go away.”
Rather than lobbying doctors or team officials to speed up or slow down his return, Reed said he simply describes how he feels and leaves the decision up to them, confident they will make the right one.
“I just let them make the choice,” Reed said. “I just tell them how I’m feeling. Every time I told them I wasn’t feeling right, they held me back.”
That’s what happened last week, after Reed’s limited return to practice apparently triggered a recurrence of symptoms. Reed was held out of practice and sidelined for a second game. He says that he is now symptom-free and, following Wednesday’s interviews, engaged in a spirited game of ping-pong in the locker room with wide receiver Pierre Garcon.
Reed didn’t report symptoms of his fifth diagnosed concussion until two days after the victory at Baltimore. He previously acknowledged failing to disclose a concussion he suffered his rookie season, which brings his total to at least six.
Reed was the team’s leading receiver at the time of his latest concussion, but 11th-year NFL tight end Vernon Davis, 32, has filled in ably.
Norman, the team’s best defender and most loquacious member, wasn’t available for interviews Wednesday after taking part in team stretching and individual drills.
Gruden was candid about Norman’s value against Cincinnati (3-4), which boasts the NFL’s second-leading receiver in A.J. Green, who has 50 catches for 775 yards before the season’s midpoint. At 6-4 and 210 pounds, Green presents a handful for any member of the Redskins’ secondary.
“Anytime your best player is not going to go, it has a concern,” Gruden said, referring to Norman, whom the Redskins signed to a five-year, $75 million deal in April. “But when he does go, you have a comfort level. That’s why we signed him — for guys like A.J. Green.”
As with Reed, Gruden declined to predict whether Norman would play Sunday, noting: “He could wake up tonight and have headaches and symptoms and go back to ground zero. It just depends on how they feel tomorrow.”
There’s no timetable for players to progress through the NFL concussion protocol. Each must be cleared by an independent doctor before increasing his activity in five separate stages. Neither a head coach nor NFL front office can sign off on a concussed player’s return.
Norman suffered his latest concussion when his helmet slammed onto the Ford Field turf after a diving attempt to break up a deep pass. As a Carolina Panther, he missed two games in 2014 because of a concussion. He was also diagnosed with a concussion following the final preseason game the next year but was cleared for the regular season opener 10 days later.
Left tackle Trent Williams, who suffered a sprained left knee on the Redskins’ final, desperate drive in the loss at Detroit, also was back on the practice field Wednesday in a limited role.
A four-time Pro Bowler with a history of playing through leg injuries, Williams had difficulty walking Sunday afternoon. And though he is far from recovered, Williams said it would take more than pain to keep him from Sunday’s game.
“Something has to be torn or broken [to sit out a game],” Williams said. “A sprain? I can get through that; bruises, I can get through that. Long as the doctor tells me it’s nothing structurally wrong with that I got going, I do everything I got to do to get on the field.”
In Williams’s view, it is his obligation.
“I feel like I owe it to them — to the franchise, to my teammates,” Williams said. “A lot of people depend on me to be out there. Obviously the front office made a commitment to me contractually, so I feel like it’s my duty to play through those little nicks and bruises. . . . This is what I love to do. I want to leave a legacy, more so than anything. You can’t do that by sitting on the sidelines.”