- The Washington Times - Friday, June 6, 2003

Washington Redskins linebacker Jeremiah Trotter could join team-oriented drills in practice next week, a clear signal of how well he is rehabilitating his ruptured knee.

Trotter hadn’t been expected to do any team work — generally, 7-on-7 or full-squad activities — until training camp in late July. But his individual work gradually has increased, and there now is optimism he can reach the unexpected rehab benchmark in next week’s final offseason practices.

“Hopefully, next week I’ll get some team stuff in,” Trotter said. “It’s doing good. It feels great. I’m just trying to slowly get back into it.”

Trotter, a two-time Pro Bowl player with Philadelphia before signing a blockbuster contract with Washington a year ago, tore his right ACL and LCL in last season’s Thanksgiving Day loss at Dallas. From the start, he wasn’t expected to be fully healthy until training camp.

Rehabbing the right knee while coming back from arthroscopic surgery on the left knee, which was torn while Trotter was at Stephen F. Austin, made the club especially patient. But officials slowly are easing the restraints and fulfilling Trotter’s desire to work ever harder.

“I don’t have any concerns [about intensifying rehab],” Trotter said. “We’re being smart about it. It’s hard not being in there full time, but I’ve got to listen to the trainers and the coaches. I’ll do what’s best for my team and my career. Whatever they say, that’s what I’ll do.”

The signs of progress yesterday actually included a moment when Trotter slipped on the wet turf.

“It felt great,” he said without irony. “I mean, that was a relief. Because a lot of times when you slip, even when you’re healthy, it hurts. But I slipped on some wet grass and it felt great, and I was excited about that.”

Trotter was among several Redskins with improving injury news as the club held the first of its last five workouts (continuing today, then Monday through Wednesday) before camp.

Guard Tre Johnson was on the field for the first time since re-signing this offseason, having been sidelined more than a month with a hamstring injury. And defensive tackle Del Cowsette, who underwent wrist surgery in late January, continued the team work he began in the final practices of the last session.

Cowsette, a fourth-year player out of Maryland, could make an impact in the defensive tackle rotation. Dan Wilkinson and Brandon Noble are slated to start, but the No.3 tackle, Jermaine Haley, is facing a potential suspension if he is convicted of DUI.

The wrist injury bothered Cowsette the past two seasons. He expects to be finally healthy in coming months.

“I’m definitely making progress,” Cowsette said. “I’m way past where I was last year. It feels much better.”

However, defensive end Regan Upshaw, who underwent arthroscopic knee surgery three weeks ago, remains sidelined. Although the surgery went well, he probably won’t do anything other than rehab until camp.

“All I’ve been doing the last couple weeks is minor rehabilitation — range of motion, strengthening the leg,” Upshaw said. “Where I hurt the leg, you can’t put a lot of pressure on it. It’s like having a scab. We don’t want to reinjure it.”

Meanwhile, coach Steve Spurrier does not seem concerned by the continued absence of defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson from these voluntary practices. Wilkinson missed most practices in the last session and was absent again yesterday, though he does work out at Redskin Park fairly frequently.

Last offseason Spurrier criticized Wilkinson for not being on hand, but in recent weeks the coach has offered praise because Wilkinson has lost weight. Defensive end Bruce Smith is the only other regular absentee from practice.

At the outset of the offseason, Wilkinson appeared in danger of being a post-June1 cut. But the club’s confidence in him has become increasingly clear, and the current lack of impact defensive tackles on the market make a pay cut unlikely (i.e. the Redskins could threaten to cut Wilkinson, but they couldn’t sign a replacement as talented).

However, Wilkinson surely would not be able to duplicate his $3.5million salary on the open market. Thus, the Redskins still could influence a pay cut if they convince Wilkinson that they’re serious about releasing him.

Notes — The Redskins fired college scouting director Ron Nay as expected, continuing the shakeup that began with Tuesday’s departure of vice president of football operations Joe Mendes. The new vice president of football operations, Vinny Cerrato, has said he will begin interviewing candidates for the personnel department next week. … Haley was at Redskin Park for the first time since his DUI arrest Memorial Day weekend. Asked about it, he replied: “I don’t have any comment. I’ll have my day in court.”

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