- The Washington Times - Monday, May 27, 2013

Brandon Meriweather walked off the field flashing his trademark smile. His right knee still isn’t completely healthy after a torn ACL ended his 2012 season, but the Washington Redskins safety hasn’t let that dampen his mood.

“I can’t wait for the season to start,” he said more than three months from Week 1. “I’m like a little kid in a candy store right now.”

Forget even about the start of the season. Meriweather hopes to be doing drills with his teammates by the start of training camp.

If he is, the veteran will be the centerpiece of a secondary that could include a few rookies and a much different look than last year. Cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are back and Meriweather could contribute more than during an injury-plagued 2012, while newcomers like E.J. Biggers and third-round pick David Amerson make this unit the biggest unknown on the Redskins‘ defense.

“I could tell you this: It’s going to be competitive,” Meriweather said. “It’s going to be a lot of great players on the field at once, and the best man going to win and we’re going to have a great year.”

Last year wasn’t so great for a maligned secondary that contributed to the NFL’s 30th-ranked pass defense. Meriweather’s knee injuries and suspensions to Tanard Jackson and, later, Cedric Griffin, kept the group from being together at any point.

Meriweather knows the guys around him will be different when 2013 starts. But with offseason team activities ongoing and the 29-year-old unable to participate as he works his way back, that’s not at the forefront of his mind.

“I haven’t thought about the depth chart, period,” he said. “The only thing I’m thinking about now is me getting my knees right and me finding a way to compete with the rest of these guys.”

Meriweather didn’t have much of a chance to compete in his first season with the Redskins. He sprained the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee in preseason, then suffered a setback Sept. 30 when wide receiver Aldrick Robinson collided with him during pregame warm-ups.

One impressive game Nov. 18 against the Philadelphia Eagles featured seven tackles and an interception before Meriweather suffered a torn ACL that ended his season. He conceded it was a “tough” year, but the upbeat strong safety isn’t sulking about a lost season.

“The way I look at it is that God gave me a year to rest my body,” Meriweather said. “He added two more years on my career, that’s how I look at it. Everybody say I kept getting injured, but I say it was a ‘Get healthy’ year.”

Six months after tearing the ACL in his right knee, Meriweather isn’t completely healthy yet. Eager to get on the field for team workouts amid rehab with assistant trainer Elliott Jermyn, he knows it wouldn’t be wise to press his luck in May.

“You seen me out there? Wow I was moving,” he said with a smile before offering a serious answer. “If I could go today, would I? Probably not.”

Especially when the Redskins are targeting this summer for a legitimate return.

“I think Brandon will be fine once we get to camp,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “The one thing you don’t want to do when somebody hurts his knee is get him going too quickly. Just let it heal and strengthen the muscles around the knee. Right now he looks pretty good.”

Meriweather’s feeling good, but no one really has any idea how the Redskins‘ secondary will look when the regular season begins Sept. 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Wilson is coming off shoulder surgery that revealed a pectoral injury was worse than thought, and the team is adding Amerson, a cornerback out of N.C. State, and fourth-round safety Phillip Thomas into the mix.

“I definitely think I provide playmaking ability for the secondary, for the defense,” Amerson said. “I think that’s something they were looking for.”

Familiar pieces are back, like cornerback Richard Crawford and safeties Jordan Pugh and Reed Doughty. Who starts at free safety alongside Meriweather looks like a wide-open competition, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Anytime you got a bunch of guys that love to play football and get to play together, it’s going to make us better,” Meriweather said.

Just having Meriweather on the field should make the Redskins better. When that will happen is impossible to say.

Meriweather doesn’t want to hazard a guess. Not right now, he said, deferring to Jermyn. Reminding reporters of last season’s song-and-dance about returning, he doesn’t want to go through the same thing again.

“I never really had a torn ACL [before], so I don’t know what the timetable’s like,” he said. “Will I be ready for training camp? I hope so. If everything keeps going the way it is, I would say most likely. But at the same time, with knee injuries, you always have setbacks and you always have days that feel great. So we’ll see.”

Mired in uncertainty, “We’ll see” also describes the Redskins‘ secondary. The good news for Meriweather and his teammates is they have some time to get healthy and figure it out.