Redskins approaching full strength as season opener nears
By Mark Maske,
The Washington Redskins could be back at close to full strength for Sunday’s regular season opener at New Orleans. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said following Monday’s practice at Redskins Park that he expects to be available to face the Saints after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery early in training camp and missing the entire preseason.
Linebacker Brian Orakpo said he, too, expects to be in the lineup in New Orleans. Orakpo missed the final two preseason games after hurting his left shoulder and pectoral muscle.
Lichtensteiger said he is “100 percent” sure he’ll be ready to play and believes he will be able to demonstrate his readiness to coaches on the practice field this week.
“Assuming they see what they want to see, I’m going to be playing,” Lichtensteiger said.
The Redskins’ projected starter at right tackle, Jammal Brown, will be out of the lineup at the outset of the season. He is on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing hip surgery. As many as three projected starters on the offensive line have been sidelined for portions of the preseason, with Lichtensteiger on the shelf and right guard Chris Chester plagued by a sprained ankle.
But if Lichtensteiger returns this week, the Redskins will have four-fifths of their projected starting offensive line back on the field in New Orleans.
Safety Brandon Meriweather, who missed the final two preseason games after suffering a knee injury against the Bears, was on the field for Monday’s practice. But it was not clear how fully he participated and he was not available to comment after practice. Coach Mike Shanahan did not speak to reporters Monday.
Veteran safety Reed Doughty said he is preparing this week as if he will be a starter but added he didn’t know where things stand with Meriweather.
“I have no idea, honestly,” Doughty said. “We’re just in game-plan mode right now. Everybody is kind of figuring out what they want to do. I don’t know anything about the extent of it. We’ll just have to see how it plays out later in the week.”
Lichtensteiger said he resumed practicing fully Friday and now is regaining his sharpness after missing virtually all of training camp and all four preseason games.
“Hopefully there’s not a lot of rust there to begin with,” Lichtensteiger said. “But there’s going to be some of that, yeah. It’s been a while. Today was my first full-go padded practice in a long time. Hopefully I’ll just keep getting better and then on Sunday I’ll feel ready to go.”
Second-year pro Maurice Hurt took most of the snaps with the starting offense at left guard while Lichtensteiger recovered from his knee surgery.
Hurt also started eight games last season. Lichtensteiger’s 2011 season was cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
Lichtensteiger was back on the field at the start of training camp in July but lasted only a few days before undergoing another surgery on the same knee after doctors found what the Redskins described as loose particles. Shanahan said he was planning to have Lichtensteiger back to face the Saints.
“It felt great at the beginning of camp, the first two days,” Lichtensteiger said. “It feels okay now. It feels like I can play on it. I feel like I’m going to play at the same level as I would have played before, and that’s all you can really ask for. Two knee surgeries in a year, it’s not going to feel great. But it feels as good as it can.”
Orakpo said he had “no doubts” he’ll play Sunday.
“I should be fine,” he said.
Immediately after he was hurt in the Redskins’ second preseason game in Chicago, Orakpo said he believed he’d suffered a serious injury. But an MRI exam taken the following day showed no serious damage, and Orakpo and the Redskins have said they expect him to be ready for the regular season.
Orakpo repeated that after Monday’s practice, saying he has made good progress since being injured.
“I’ve been working at it, working at it, getting healthy, rehabbing and stuff,” Orakpo said. “I feel good. Hopefully I’ll be 100 percent come New Orleans. But I’m feeling great right now . . . I mean, I’m back.”
Meriweather and Madieu Williams, both signed as free agents in the offseason, are listed as the Redskins’ starters at safety. Tanard Jackson probably would have been next in line for a starting job, but he was suspended for at least a year Friday for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy a third time.
That leaves Doughty, DeJon Gomes or rookie Jordan Bernstine to start if Meriweather is unable to play this week.
“I just prepare every game like I’m going to be the starter,” Doughty said. “I’ve had the opportunity to start a lot of games here. But right now I’m just focused on the game plan. If I end up starting, if I end up playing a lot, that’s what happens.”