The Washington Redskins 2014 Training Camp begins on Thursday in Richmond, VA. Before it can begin, however, players must pass a physical and have team doctors clear them to participate. This is a formality for most players, but for guys with known injuries, it's a very big deal when it comes to their time in camp. Some players are competing for spots on the roster while others are trying to get up to speed with a new coach. A player can deal with a lot of extra difficulty by missing a portion of camp, especially in a new Head Coach's first year.
The four Redskins to watch on Wednesday are Richard Crawford, Leonard Hankerson, Stephen Bowen, and Jason Hatcher. Everyone else on the roster is basically healthy, or at least healthy enough to participate in training camp. All of the four players listed are dealing with knee injuries and face questions moving forward.
Crawford tore his ACL during a punt return in the third preseason game last year and hasn't played since. His best chance of making the roster this year is proving that he can still be a viable punt returner in the league and he'll face some stiff competition from others on the roster. The guys he's competing with for those duties? Chris Thompson, Santana Moss, Nick Williams, Andre Roberts, and DeSean Jackson amongst others. Crawford has also lost a lot of developmental time at CB and will face improved competition there. While DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson are locks to make the roster, guys like Tracy Porter, Bashaud Breeland, E.J. Biggers, Chase Minnifield, and Courtney Bridget will all be competing for the last three-ish spots.
Hankerson also tore an ACL last year in week 11 against the Eagles. Hankerson has recently started running, but is still unlikely to be able to participate during the beginning of camp. The Redskins brought in DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts this year to help improve a struggling WR corps. This further hurts Hankerson's chances of making the roster. Garcon, Jackson, and Roberts are all locks and Hankerson will have to compete with Santana Moss, Ryan Grant, Aldrick Robinson, and Cody Hoffman for the last 2-3 WR spots. If he's injured for long, he could fall behind the pack in getting up to speed with the new offense and proving to the coaching staff that he can be relied upon.
While Crawford and Hankerson are both relatively young and inexpensive, Bowen is the opposite. Playing on a large contract at 30 years of age, it's even more imperative that Bowen prove he can recover from injury. He injured his PCL in his right knee week seven last year, but continued to play through it until in week 11 when he further injured the same knee. He had microfracture surgery to repair the knee and is still recovering. He'll have to get back to his old form quickly to stave off some serious competition along the DL. He's been rehabbing all offseason and the Redskins have added to their DL competition by bringing in prized FA Jason Hatcher along with re-signing Chris Baker and adding the massive Clifton Geathers and Frank Kearse. Bowen has been targeting the start of training camp to complete his recovery and be ready to participate, so Wednesday will be a big day for him.
We found out on June 18th, not long after signing Jason Hatcher to a lucrative four-year $27.5M contract that he would require arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and would need to recover for 4-6 weeks. He's already 32 years old, but after having a huge season last year with double-digit sacks in Dallas, and signing his huge contract, Hatcher's spot on the team is secure. Still, for a player his age and expense to deal with knee troubles can be worrisome. He'll need to get back on the field as soon as possible to prove that he'll be good to go for the season, is worth what he's being paid, and is up to speed learning and practicing in his new defensive scheme. The surgery is unlikely to impact his performance during the regular season. The start of camp will be five weeks post surgery for Hatch. Hopefully he's as fast a healer as he's led us to believe by posting on his Twitter five days after surgery that he was already off crutches and recovering quickly.
Judging by recent reports on these guys, Hatcher appears the most likely to be ready to participate on Thursday. His surgery was not severe and the recovery is fairly minor in comparison to the other guys. The other three guys are far less certain. It seems that most people believe they (Crawford, Hankerson, and Bowen) will have to start off training camp on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. Players on the PUP list can do individual drills off to the side, apart from their teammates, but can't participate along with the rest of the group in team drills. Players on the PUP list count towards the 90-man roster and can be taken off of the PUP list at any time. In order to qualify for the in-season PUP list, a player must have begun training camp on the PUP list. Being placed on the in-season PUP list disqualifies a player for six weeks and allows them to return to the team after that time.
Here's to hoping all these guys can recover quickly and give the Redskins a complete, healthy 90-man roster to maximize competition during camp. Wednesday will be big for them as they get the physicals that will determine their fate.