One day after Coach Mike Shanahan said Tim Hightower is nearing a returning to practice, the Redskins starting tailback confirmed that his surgically repaired knee is fine, ready.People ask me what percent I am all the time, Hightower said Wednesday morning. I dont know. Ive never been through this. But I know I feel good.I can make every cut, he added. I can run. I dont feel any restrictions or limitations. At this point, its just a matter of going out there and getting repetitions. The only way to get better a football is by playing football. Thats the next step for me.On Tuesday, Shanahan said Hightower, who missed the final 11 games last season after tearing the ACL in his left knee in October, could begin taking reps in team drills as soon as Friday. Shanahan also hinted the Hightower could suit up for the third or fourth preseason game.When they feel comfortable putting me out there, then theyll do that and Ill be ready to go, said Hightower, who added that he hasnt been told when exactly hell be cleared to participate fully in practice. But the knee is fine.Hightower is listed on the depth chart as the Redskins starting tailback. Hes also the teams top pass-catcher out of the backfield, best blocker and most experienced running back. But hes also aware that hes competing for playing time with second-year players Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr., as well as emerging rookie Alfred Morris.For me, I get excited when I see guys like that doing well, Hightower said of the crowded backfield. It pushes me and encourages me to stay on top of my stuff.Whenever Hightower does return, he said his goal is to be more prominent on and off the field than he was before the injury.I dont want to be the player I was; I want to be better, he said. This team needs me to be better. I need to be more vocal, be a better leader, to be more productive. I want to be better for this team. If everybody on this team is as good as they were last year, we wont be good enough.
After making a late call to put Josh Doctson on the inactive list last week against the Giants, the Redskins are preparing to play without the rookie receiver on Sunday unless his Achilles injury dramatically improves. The team is practicing with Rashad Ross as the fifth wideout for Cleveland, a source told CSN.
"It was actually last minute. It was 11:30 a.m.," Gruden said of taking Doctson off the active list in New York and replacing him with Ross.
"He just didn’t feel comfortable, couldn’t push off the way he wanted to so we had to make that last minute switch."
Gruden explained the team has lingering concerns about Doctson's availability as he continues to battle an Achilles injury. The rookie did not practice Wednesday, and the coach said he will not practice again Thursday, though he added the injury could stretch much longer.
"It could be a possibility or a time that we put him down for a couple more weeks or a couple more days like we’re taking him off today, probably set him down tomorrow, see if that helps him a little bit," Gruden said. "This is new to everybody I think and the key is to get him healthy like you say. We are not trying to rush him."
Doctson has been active for two of the Redskins three games, and has two catches for 66 yards. He did show some of his ability on a long completion from Kirk Cousins against Dallas, though largely, Doctson and the Redskins have been frustrated by the injury.
"I am concerned. We’ve had all of the tests and there is really nothing there that we should be concerned about from a long-term problem, it’s just he is dealing with some pain," Gruden said. "We don’t know why it is but we have to try and figure out what it is and get it fixed."
For Washington, Ross likely will return kicks against Cleveland if Doctson is down. Active for the first time in New York, Ross had not practiced in that role throughout the week, and Chris Thompson and Will Blackmon shared the kick returning duties. With the Redskins preparing to play Ross, it means he can get the work returning kicks this week in advance of the Browns game. It also helps alleviate some of the workload from Blackmon, who will now be starting at free safety after DeAngelo Hall tore his ACL in New York.
Here are the salient points from Jay Gruden’s news conference on Wednesday:
—They want to get newly acquired center John Sullivan ready to play in a backup role this week. “He’s a very bright guy and I think he will be able to help this team in the long run.”
—Gruden said that the plan to cover the offensive line with two starters out is still being developed. He said that he wants Arie Kouandjio to get a “taste” of starting a left guard, which didn’t sound like much of a commitment to have him start. The door was left open for the possibility of Trent Williams starting at left guard although Gruden didn’t seem to like the idea of moving him.
—The team is doing well getting into the red zone and Gruden said that figuring out how to get the ball into the end zone rather than settling for three is “very high” on the list of concerns.
—There are injuries in the defensive backfield, too, but Gruden is not “overly concerned” about them. He likes the flexibility of the group and think that they can fill in with DeAngelo Hall on injured reserve and Bashaud Breeland out for at least this week.
—Jordan Reed has yet to catch a touchdown pass this year in part because teams are defending differently in the red zone. “Yeah, we are seeing a little bit more zone probably and when they play zone, sometimes they bang him when he gets off the line of scrimmage or they send an extra guy to him which is good. It should open up some other people but we just haven’t found the open guy consistently.”
—Will Josh Norman follow Terrelle Pryor, the Brown’s No. 1 receiver who had 141 yards receiving last week? “We’ll have to wait and see.” I wouldn’t expect an answer on this until game time but Pryor is not yet the caliber of receiver who would warrant be trailed by Norman. That’s not really his game, anyway. He is much more effective as a zone corner.