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Jordan Reed, Year 6 - Is the Redskin star TE finally physically ready to play 16 regular season games?

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It feels different this year...

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Interview

Craig Hoffman of 106.7 The Fan did a 6 12 minute interview with Jordan Reed at training camp this week, and listening to it, I felt that I was hearing from a player who had undergone a profound transformation.

The key statement in the interview was this:

“I’m gonna owe a lot of the success I’m gonna have this year to Dan.”

The “Dan” he was referring to is physical therapist Daniel Karp of Premier Performance & Rehab, whom Jordan Reed credits with being the architect behind a total re-tooling of Jordan Reed’s body, which he describes as having been “rebuilt from the ground up”.


Reed as a Redskin

Jordan Reed was taken by the Redskins in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft, at a time when the Redskins still believed that Robert Griffin was the foundation of a franchise re-build.

Reed had been ‘the other’ tight end at the University of Florida, where the then-Patriots rising star Aaron Hernandez had been his teammate. Reed was a guy who had been recruited as a quarterback coming out of high school. For the Gators he played some games at receiver before finally getting 5 games at the QB position, where he seemed more like a running back, carrying the ball 48 times in the final three games of his 2010 season.

In 2011, Reed was moved to tight end, and by 2012 he looked like a natural pass-catching receiver. The 6’2” player emerged as a legitimate receiving threat, hauling in 45 receptions for 559 yards and 3 TDs.

Still, when the Redskins drafted him, I don’t think many Redskin fans realized what the team was getting. Reed is perhaps the most talented pass-catching tight end in the NFL, but his career has become known more for his inability to stay healthy than his incredible ability to catch the ball and score.

Reports like this one from Sports Illustrated in 2015 have been all too common in the 5-year career of the Redskins talented pass catching tight end:

Reed left Sunday’s victory over the Eagles in the fourth quarter with an apparent concussion, an injury that was confirmed by a team spokesman hours later. He appeared to suffer an ankle injury earlier in the game, but returned. He took a hit to the head with 42 seconds remaining, knocking him out of the game.

Reed has sprains to his MCL and ankle.

Reed suffered two concussions while playing college football at Florida, and he dealt with concussion issues during his rookie NFL season in 2013. The Redskins shut him down for the final six games of that season due to lingering headaches. Reed also missed five games in 2014 with a hamstring injury.

Put him in bubble wrap

The problems with Jordan Reed’s health manifested early in his Rrdskins career. In a game against the Lions in late September, 2013, Reed left the game with a quad contusion after taking a helmet to the leg.

What sounded like a fairly routine NFL injury — as innocuous-sounding as a bruise — was just the first sign of trouble in an NFL career that has seen Reed miss 28 games in 5 seasons, and to often be at much less than 100% even when he was on the field.

While Reed’s injury history is impressive, with multiple concussions, knee surgery, toe problems and more, it may have been an injury to his quad ( a group of muscles located in the front of the thigh) in college that was the trigger for much of what has ailed him since.

A key college injury

Even before his rookie season started, Jordan Reed was struggling to get on the field. In June 2013, Steve Shoup reported on Jordan Reed’s delicate condition:

Reed has now missed the rookie mini-camp, and first two OTA sessions. He’s not expected to be cleared until after the final OTA session and mini-camp later this month. Though the current expectation is for him to be ready for Training Camp, the confidence level perhaps shouldn’t be too high. Even if Reed is healthy for the season his potential for impact this season is severely compromised.

Reed is recovering from both a quad injury and a bone bruise, described his injury to CSN Washington:

“I had a [thigh] contusion in college and that caused my quad to shutdown and stop working, which caused my kneecap to start moving around and banging into my bone, and that caused a bone bruise,” Reed explained. “As long as I get that quad back firing right, my kneecap will stay in place and I’ll be normal again.”

That sounds like anything [but] a typical injury, which gives some concern to just how accurate the time table for return should be. Also, calling into the question of his time table to be ready by training camp is the fact that we’ve already seen that time table change. After Reed sat out the rookie mini-camp at the beginning of May, the general expectation was that it was minor and he’d only miss a couple of weeks. That left the impression that at worst he’d miss the first session or two of OTA’s, but that he should be back by June and getting in work during mini-camp. Those “couple of weeks” has now apparently become at least seven weeks.

Put into this context, the quad injury against the Lions early in Reed’s rookie year seems much more serious. He had missed most of his preseason because his left quad wasn’t working the way it was supposed to, and it was re-injured in the Lions game.

The SportsInjuryPredictor website indicates that Jordan Reed has injured his left quad multiple times. In fact, the original injury from college may have been the underlying cause for many of the lower-body ailments that Reed has suffered from in his professional career. Consider what Reed said in his radio interview this week:

“My right side’s been stronger than the left side as long as I can remember.”

Players, coaches, trainers and even casual fans are all aware that the body ‘compensates’ for weakness or pain in one area by adding stress to other areas of the body. This week, on NFL Network, I watched an interesting interview with Andrew Luck, who talked about the effect that shoulder pain has had on his throwing motion, and how his body has ‘compensated’ by putting strain on other body parts.

It sounds like Jordan Reed’s body has, for years, been compensating for weakness in his left leg by building power in his right one. But that kind of natural compensation often comes at a cost. Reed has suffered multiple knee strains, hamstring injuries and toe problems, and reading the article penned by Craig Hoffman, it seems the imbalance in power between his right and left legs may have been much of the reason for this litany of lower body issues.

“When I tore my hamstring, the way we found out about the discrepancy was we got on the treadmill and it measures that power output on both legs,” Reed told The Fan during an exclusive sit-down in Richmond. “I had a torn hamstring on the right side, and I still was putting out more pressure on my right leg than I was on my left, even with the torn hamstring.”

Reed’s coaches had always known he was more explosive cutting to his left, pushing off his right leg. Now they understood why. His right side dominance defied logic.


Read a related article on Jordan Reed: Is Jordan Reed down to his last chance with Jay Gruden?


Fixing what’s broke

In the interview, Reed discussed the work he has done with physical therapist Daniel Karp and others to correct what’s been ailing him.

“[T]he fractured toe on the left side... just caused my right side to do even more work than it has been in the past.

It ultimately made the sesamoid injury a lot worse, causing me not to be able to walk for a month, and not be able to run until like two weeks before the season,” Reed said. ”I was set back a lot by that. And that caused a lot of other problems just compensating for the left foot, running on the fracture all season. Ended up tearing my hamstring later on in the year from overcompensation.”

The uneven power output is just one of the things that Reed and his team of doctors, trainers and physical therapists worked to fix. It all started with surgery to remove the sesamoid bone in each of his feet.

But Reed has gone far beyond a simple surgical procedure.

“We pretty much rebuilt my body from the ground up,” Reed said. “That took a lot of time, just to reprogram the body to do what it’s made to do, and we accomplished our goal.”

When Reed says they started from the ground up, he means it literally. They discovered his left arch wasn’t as strong as his right. They fixed it, and strengthened both feet before moving up the leg to the calves, quads, hamstrings, glutes and eventually his core.

Remember what Jordan Reed said in his rookie year about his quad not “firing” properly? It seems that, while he was able to get well enough to play as a rookie, the underlying issue may have persisted. That was addressed this offseason.

The team of specialists worked to fix Reed’s firing patterns, so that the proper muscles would be recruited at the right time. For instance, they wanted to ensure power is generated from the glutes and stabilization comes from the core. When those things are wrong, there is [undue] pressure in those muscles which can cause injury in the connecting joints, ligaments or the muscles themselves.

The result is Reed feels stronger than he has in years. While that’s no guarantee that he’s going to stay healthy, he’s put himself in the best position possible to do so.

Training camp reports

There are reasons to believe that 2018 may be different — that Jordan Reed may be healthy and productive, possibly for the first time in his NFL career.

First of all, Jordan Reed himself has been vocal about how good he feels this year. After explaining the pain he suffered from toe injuries in 2017, he talked about the contrast this offseason.

“I worked real hard in May [2017] and I was feeling really good during OTAs,” he said. “My toe was kind of bothering me a little bit, so I said I was going to get a stem cell shot in my toe.

”I went and got a stem cell shot on my own and that really aggravated the toe a lot worse, and the whole month of July I couldn’t run. Couldn’t really walk. That just set me back coming into the season. So it was a bad month, a bad choice, poor decision getting that shot.”

In December Reed had sesamoid surgery, then had it for his other toe in February. He said the pain is gone, and now he’s rebuilding his stamina.

”The pain was shutting down certain parts of my body that I needed,” he said. “Now we’re removed from that pain and I’m just getting my body built back up. Now I’m feeling great again.”

He said the first day of camp made him feel “like a rookie” because of how much time he’d missed, and that he’ll be eased back into things on a timetable controlled by the Redskins coaches.

Reed has been enthusiastic in all of his interviews during this week’s training camp:

“It’s been a long process, but it’s finally starting to pay off and I’m starting to feel good again,” Reed said, according to Kareem Copeland of the Washington Post. “Feels like a [complete] turnaround. I’m feeling a lot better than I felt last year. Much more explosive, much stronger and just in better shape. So, I’m feeling great.”

This might sound a bit like Deja vu all over again; after all, we’ve heard similar things from Reed in the past. But then there are the reports of people who’ve seen him in camp, not the least from Jay Gruden:

Jordan [Reed] feels great right now, very optimistic about the way his body feels and now it’s our job to make sure we just progress him along at a good rate and hopefully get him in there in a preseason game or two and get him ready for the [Arizona] Cardinals.

Jordan is in and out of his cuts like he hasn’t lost anything,” Gruden said. “It’s a matter of maintaining strength and getting stronger and stronger to where he feels absolutely 100 percent sure he can make cuts to his left, cuts to his right without having to worry or think about it…. He’s well on his way. We could probably practice him full-go now if we wanted to, but we want to build it up to where for sure he’s ready to roll.”

While the Redskins are taking a cautious approach with Reed and having him mostly do individual work and some limited drills at the start of camp, people attending camp have noticed how comfortable and crisp Reed looks so far:

The proof of the pudding is in the eating

Not many people are going to believe that Jordan Reed — a player who, for five seasons as a Washington Redskin, has seemed as brittle as glass — is suddenly an iron man, capable of playing an entire season without injury.

Still, the work that he seems to have put during the offseason is impressive, and Reed credits Dan Karp with bringing a whole new level of understanding about Reed’s body and his health, and a whole new approach to getting ready for the season.

Reed says that he feels renewed. Jay Gruden says he’s ready to play. Camp observers uniformly report that Reed is moving around like a player who is feeling good and healthy enough to play.

The next five months will reveal whether 2018 marks a renaissance for Jordan Reed, or whether his apparent health and readiness in this year’s training camp is simply a false dawn ahead of another season of unfulfilled promise.

“He can run any route from anywhere,” Gruden says of his favorite weapon. “In the slot, in the corner, outside, split outside, creates matchup problems, gives us man-zone tips, and he can beat corners, he can beat linebackers, and he can beat safeties. So, it’s hard not to throw him the ball when he’s in there. That’s how good he is.”

Poll

Which narrative do you believe is true?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Jordan Reed, with the help of Dan Karp and Redskins trainers, has fixed what ails him, and he is ready to play a full season of football.
    (240 votes)
  • 38%
    Jordan Reed is a brittle player who can’t get through more than a handful of games without getting injured. This ‘renaissance’ won’t last much beyond the bye week.
    (151 votes)
391 votes total Vote Now