The Washington Post
Samuel put on IR, can return in Week 4
Depth at wide receiver, a big offseason priority for WFT, will be tested
The Washington Football Team will have to start its season without one of its newest (and highestpaid) offseason acquisitions. Curtis Samuel was placed on injured reserve Friday because of a lingering groin injury, forcing the veteran wide receiver to miss at least the first three games of the season.
It’s unclear when Samuel first suffered the injury, but he has dealt with it since at least early June, forcing him to miss minicamp and later training camp and the preseason. He also spent 10 days on the covid-19/reserve list early in training camp, which Coach Ron Rivera said set him back in his recovery.
Samuel returned to practice for the first time Monday and participated on a limited basis in pads. But at the team’s subsequent practice Wednesday, Samuel ran only a few individual drills before he walked over toward the sideline in apparent discomfort. He was formally listed as a nonparticipant on the team’s practice report both Wednesday and Thursday.
“We’re just trying to take a little bit of pressure off of him in terms
of his rehab program,” Rivera told reporters Friday. “Having been put on the covid list at one time, I think, set him back in terms of his opportunity to rehab and get himself ready to go for the year. So we want to create this opportunity and take advantage of it and really let him focus on getting healthy before he has to start worrying about playing.”
Rivera indicated that Samuel’s time on IR is expected to be short term. Per the NFL’S modified IR rules, Samuel has to miss three games before he is eligible to return to practice, which would be Sept. 27 for Washington, following its Week 3 game at Buffalo. If Samuel is designated for return, the team would have 21 days to decide to activate him or leave him on IR for the remainder of the season.
The soonest Samuel could suit up for a game is Week 4 against the Falcons in Atlanta.
When asked about the possibility of surgery for Samuel, Rivera became irritated and said it’s “not an option.”
“Don’t even bring that up,” he told reporters. “. . . I don’t want to start any rumors, any crap, okay? This has got nothing to do with any of that, guys. It’s just about giving a guy an opportunity to get a chance to rehab the way he needed to because, unfortunately, when we had to put him on [the] covid [list], he missed basically two weeks. We’re trying to catch up on those lost two weeks. We pushed him a little bit last week, he’s not ready, so we figured this is the best thing to do. . . .
“Do not even mention that, please. That is not an option as far as we’re concerned right now. It’s not even on the table. . . . Do not start something that’s not there.”
Washington signed Samuel to a three-year, $34.5 million contract in March with the expectation that he would become a focal point of an offense that last year lagged in most major statistical categories. Per Sportradar, Washington tied for 29th in the league with 94 total explosive plays (at least 12 yards rushing or 16 yards passing).
“I think it was one of the things that we were missing, was the opportunity to have three or four guys on the field that could potentially go the distance,” Rivera said Monday. “You know, we may have had two guys at a time, but now we have a potential to put three or four guys out on the field that have the ability to go the distance every time they touch it. So this is pretty exciting as far as what we can be on offense. . . . The things that we did, we did in mind with that express intent, and that was to get faster, to put more playmakers that have the chance to go vertical.”
With sub-4.4-second speed and experience in Washington’s offensive system (he was coached by Rivera and coordinator Scott Turner with Carolina), Samuel was a natural fit to pair with Terry Mclaurin atop the wide receiver depth chart. But Samuel wasn’t the only addition at the position, and now players such as thirdround draft pick Dyami Brown, veteran free agent Adam Humphries and fourth-year man Cam Sims will be called upon to step up as Samuel continues to rehab.
“We have enough guys that can do what Curtis does, and we feel good about those guys, and that’s why we don’t feel any pressure as far as doing what we’re doing,” Rivera added Friday.
Brown and Sims, in particular, presumably will be relied upon more in Samuel’s absence to start the season. But the future of Washington’s offense remains unknown while Samuel remains sidelined.
“It’s just one of those things,” Rivera said, “that at some point, we just say: ‘You know what? Let’s just let you heal up.’ And let’s let you go out and now focus in on getting better and getting ready to play as opposed to having to worry about: ‘Oh, man, I got to feel better. I got to feel better so I can play.’ ”