NFL Wire News

Concussions giving Redskins a headache


The Sports Xchange

ASHBURN, Va. — Concussions have played a prominent role in the Washington Redskins’ season. That began with quarterback Robert Griffin III during training camp. It continued with left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Jordan Reed in recent weeks.

Reed has missed two games. Williams sat Sunday against the New York Jets. Both players were back on the practice field for individual drills on Wednesday, but neither has been cleared for contact yet. Their status remains uncertain for the Tampa Bay game Sunday, though Reed insisted he will play.

For now, Reed and Williams remain in the NFL’s concussion protocol. They will see an independent neurologist on “Thursday or Friday,” according to head coach Jay Gruden. He will have the final say on if the players can return.

“As a coach sometimes, you get frustrated, like ‘Man, he looks fine,’ but really you want to be safe with these guys,” Gruden said. “We know the history of the concussions and all that and what problems that they can cause. We want them to be right. We want them to be totally clear of any symptoms before they step out onto the field. I think we’re going through the right process. I think the league is taking a serious stance on it and it’s a good thing to do.”

The Redskins, at one point the NFL’s top rushing offense, are still struggling to balance carries for rookie Matt Jones and fourth-year veteran Alfred Morris. Do you keep going with the hot hand and let the other back sit and watch? Or after a couple of nice runs do you sub in the other back? Finding a rhythm for both players has been difficult. Is it time to give one of them the majority of the carries?

“There probably is some validity to it,” Gruden said. “But there’s also some validity to keeping them fresh and having a package of plays for each back that we feel good about.”

Fullback is a position slowly being phased out by NFL coaches. Teams have too much success with multiple tight-end sets where players can be better utilized in the passing game.

An example is Washington fullback Darrel Young, who was on the field for just four snaps against the Jets. Young had appeared in 74 games since 2010 entering the season. So far in 2015 he has just two carries and two receptions. The Redskins even used three tight-end sets early in the season to great success in the running game, though have gone away from that with Jordan Reed’s injury (concussion).

“Those tight ends are longer, taller, longer with length to handle outside linebackers and the blocks and all that,” Gruden said. “Not saying (Young) can’t do it. We like him as far as going downhill on linebackers or chipping off the defensive ends up to the next level. He’s pretty athletic, but as far as in the core, blocking guys right up on them, that’s pretty difficult for a fullback to do.”

–It’s a low bar given how bad special teams were for the Redskins in 2013 and 2014. But the unit has been more productive this season with a pair of touchdowns, including Sunday’s blocked punt. Young and Jeron Johnson noticed New York had just 10 men on the field and Johnson came free for the block, which was recovered by Rashad Ross in the end zone. Three games earlier, also at MetLife Stadium, Ross returned a punt 101 yards against the Giants for a touchdown.

“We’ve had two touchdowns, which is excellent,” Gruden said. “Unfortunately they’ve come at times when we were down by 20 points. You like to see some production there and we’ve had some. Now we need some more out of the punt return game.”

Notes: Cornerback Chris Culliver (left knee) had an MRI on his knee, but, for now, surgery isn’t an option, according to Gruden. Culliver didn’t practice on Wednesday and has missed the last two games. … Running back Matt Jones (toe) was back on the practice field on Wednesday after missing the Jets game. … Center Kory Lichtensteiger (left shoulder/neck/broken thumb) is not expected to return against Tampa Bay after missing practice on Wednesday. … Linebacker Keenan Robinson (heel) missed Wednesday’s practice. He tried to put his shoe on but the discomfort was too much.

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