- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2012

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The NFL offseason is for R and R — rest and rehab — and lord knows the players need it. But you don’t want the offseason to be too “off,” as it was during the 2011 lockout year, because all kinds of problems can ensue.

So Washington Redskins fans should have been relieved this week, among other emotions, to see the team back on the practice field for the first round of OTAs. Granted, there’s always danger between the white lines, as coach-turned-tackling-dummy Mike Shanahan reminded us Monday. But there can be even greater hazards beyond the white lines, especially when players have too much time on their hands … or are forced to be more self-sufficient.

Consider how last season was affected by what the Redskins did or didn’t do during the lockout. We’ll start with Chris Cooley, the two-time Pro Bowl tight end. His year was pretty much a waste (eight catches, 65 yards, zero touchdowns, 15 knee drainings) because he had cartilage surgery in January and, left to his own devices for several months, didn’t get proper therapy for it. When Cooley finally was put on injured reserve in October, he called himself “a casualty of the lockout. I think it was a shame,” he added, “that they didn’t let players who had surgeries spend time with the doctors and trainers they trust on a daily basis.”


Of course, you also could argue: Why couldn’t a guy with a $30 million contract figure this out on his own? Heck, Cooley could have bought a rehab facility if he’d wanted to. But let’s table that thought for a moment and replace it with this one: Imagine how differently the struggling offense would have looked if Chris had been totally healthy. He and Fred Davis could have given the Redskins the second-best pair of tight ends in the league (after New England’s breathtaking duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez).

For 12 games, at least. Then Davis would have had to begin his suspension for testing positive for marijuana use. He and Trent Williams, the big left tackle, were two other Casualties of the Lockout. As Fred put it this week: “I guess the lockout kind of made me a little more free with doing that. That’s probably what it was, all that free time.”

Had Davis and Williams been able to suit up in the final four weeks, the Redskins might have won at least one more game (e.g. the 33-26 home loss to then 2-12 Minnesota). Yes, the 2011 offseason was quite costly.

Finally, there’s the recent news that Santana Moss, after a 2011 marked by injury and reduced productivity, has pared 15 pounds from his previous playing weight (205). Maybe he was a Casualty of the Lockout, too. Maybe he would have slimmed down sooner if he’d seen, during OTAs and whatnot, that he was no longer the receiver he’d been, that he’d lost that extra gear that made him such a threat.

After all, last year, for the first time since he came to Washington in 2004, Moss didn’t have a single 100-yard day. Indeed, his numbers — compared to the season before — virtually were chopped in half (46 catches, 584 yards, four TDs vs. 93-1,115-6). What a killer. With Santana functioning at his usual level, the Redskins, you figure, wouldn’t have dropped as many close games (six by eight points or less).

At any rate, the 2011 offseason continues to impact the club in significant ways. Cooley and Moss, once fixtures in the offense, now are viewed as players who must justify their sizable salaries to remain on the roster (unless they’re willing to renegotiate). In fact, they might be the best trade chips Shanahan has if he decides there’s something he needs more than a 30-year-old tight end or a 33-year-old wideout.

As for Davis, who’s to say what the future holds beyond this season? He’s working on a one-year deal as the Redskins‘ franchise player. Will that lead to a longer contract or to something else? (And how, for that matter, might that affect Cooley’s status?)

Anyway, the Redskins are back where they should be at this time of year. They’re at “the Park,” working out under the supervision of coaches — rather than staging player-run practices at some nearby high school.

Actually, one good thing did come out of the 2011 offseason for the Redskins, now that I think about it. Because of what happened with Cooley, Davis, Williams and Moss, they finished 5-11 and, after some finagling, were able to draft the quarterback of their dreams, Robert Griffin III.

So there is that, I suppose.