The Washington Post

Gandy-golden’s retirement catches Rivera by surprise

- BY SAM FORTIER

Before practice Thursday, tight end Antonio Gandy- Golden told Coach Ron Rivera he was going to retire from football and return to school. Gandy- Golden, a 2020 fourth-round pick from Liberty who had exciting athletic potential, spent this offseason transition­ing from wide receiver to tight end.

Rivera said he was surprised by the decision because GandyGolde­n was “doing a really good job” at his new position. But after two difficult years, Rivera sensed the 24-year-old had lost his passion for the game.

“What it sounded like in our conversati­on was that he just didn't feel it anymore,” Rivera said. “And he was talking about going back to school and finishing his education and seeing what else is out there for him.”

Kyle Strongin, Gandy- Golden’s agent, did not respond to a request seeking comment.

In 2020, Gandy- Golden captivated NFL draft experts with a big frame, athleticis­m and smarts. He was 6-foot-4, 223 pounds and ran a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and did acrobatic, twisting backflips. He majored in graphic design, flew through jigsaw puzzles (his favorite activity) and once, during a live TV interview, answered questions while solving a Rubik’s Cube.

But he never found a foothold in the NFL. He missed eight games as a rookie because of a hamstring injury, and the next season, Washington released him as a final cut during training camp. He resigned to the practice squad and eventually was elevated to the active roster, though he did not register a statistic in 20 snaps over four games. He will finish his career with one catch for three yards and one rush for 22.

“He was making some pretty good strides — and during OTAS and minicamp, he showed his ability,” Rivera said. “We felt this was a guy that could have been a matchup problem for some people. So a little surprised, but . . . I love who he is as a young man. I want to wish him all the best as he goes back and starts the rest of his life.”

Gandy- Golden’s departure leaves Washington with five healthy tight ends. While starter Logan Thomas (ACL) continues to rehab, John Bates and Cole Turner have taken the most firstteam reps. If the team keeps more than three tight ends — it kept four last year and three in 2020 — the competitio­n will be between Sammis Reyes and a pair of undrafted free agents (Curtis Hodges of Arizona State and Armani Rogers of Ohio).

Gibson misses practice

Rivera said running back Antonio Gibson is “fine” after he missed practice for the second straight day and that the team wanted to ease him into camp. The 24-year-old dealt with toe

and hip injuries last season and a hamstring tweak in minicamp, but his absence doesn’t appear related.

Gibson said his absence was precaution­ary and that he would begin practicing “next week.”

Interior offensive line shuffle

Washington activated starting

center Chase Roullier (fractured fibula) from the physically unable to perform list after practice Thursday. The move foreshadow­s potential shuffling along the interior offensive line at practice Friday. On Thursday, veteran right guard Trai Turner missed practice with an injury that is believed to be minor, according to

a person with knowledge of the situation. Saahdiq Charles took the first-team reps at right guard instead.

Now offensive line coach John Matsko has choices to make. He can shift veteran interior lineman Wes Schweitzer from center — where he has been covering for Roullier — back to right guard to create a competitio­n with Turner, or he can keep Schweitzer at center on the second team and bump 2020 fifth-round pick Keith Ismael down to the third team.

Samuel flashes his old form

After an injury-plagued first season in Washington, wide receiver Curtis Samuel looked like his explosive self again — at least for one practice. During 11-on-11, Samuel was running left to right when he caught a pass in front of corner Benjamin St-juste, and as St-juste closed in for a form tackle, Samuel planted his right foot in the ground, and St-juste flew by.

The juke was one of the offense’s only bright spots of the day and prompted a roar from the sideline. Star wideout Terry Mclaurin, who roomed with Samuel at Ohio State, shouted, “There it is!”

“That gave me flashbacks of college,” Mclaurin said. “Most guys catch that ball on a five-yard pass, and they may get two or three extra yards. The move that he made on a dime . . . gets you 10 to 12 extra yards with his ability. So it’s cool for other people to see that, get to feel that.”

If Samuel can deliver in the regular season, it would be a much-needed boost for the offense. Last season, Washington tied for 30th in the NFL with just 89 broken tackles on offense, according to the website Football Outsiders.

 ?? Jonathan NEWTON/THE Washington Post ?? Scouts liked Antonio Gandy-golden’s physical and mental skills, but he caught one pass in two seasons.
Jonathan NEWTON/THE Washington Post Scouts liked Antonio Gandy-golden’s physical and mental skills, but he caught one pass in two seasons.

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