- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 9, 2014

RICHMOND — Jason Hatcher towers above the podium at Washington’s training camp facility, a menacing figure with a mountain man’s beard and 299 pounds of grit.

But he too is only human. So after signing a four-year, $27.5 million contract with the Redskins in March, he worried about what it would mean for the first move with his new team to be getting arthroscopic surgery on his nagging left knee. What would his teammates think? The coaching staff?

“You know, just a new guy, just getting signed,” Hatcher said. “It was a big deal.”

Ultimately the positives of surgery outweighed the negatives, and Hatcher underwent the procedure on June 19. On Saturday, his teammates welcomed him back to practice after he was taken off the physically unable to perform list. The defensive end made his training camp debut, participating in individual drills with the other defensive linemen and even staying after practice to spend more time with the sled.

I’m really excited, man,” he said. “It seems like it’s been forever since I’ve been on the field.”


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The 32-year-old had been working exclusively on a side field for the beginning of training camp while recovering from the surgery, which he said wasn’t the result of one specific injury but an accumulation of maladies over the years.

Hatcher, who spent his first eight seasons in Dallas, will work his way back slowly. He will only participate in individual drills for a week, then get some live repetitions and move up to full-contact drills next week. New coach Jay Gruden has said he is hopeful Hatcher will return in time for the third preseason game against Baltimore.

“He’s a dominant player,” Gruden said. “He had 13 or so sacks last year, and he’s going to be an added impact to our team once he gets healthy.”

The explosiveness and strength in Hatcher’s knee has returned, but he said he won’t truly know if the knee is 100 percent until playing on it full-speed. That mental hurdle has been one of the most difficult aspects of his rehabilitation so far.

“Just to say, you know, ‘My knee is good’ and go out there and just playing on it as hard as I can,” Hatcher said. “Once I did that, I was able to get over it mentally.”

Two days after winning their preseason opener against New England, 23-6, the Redskins returned to training camp, welcomed back Hatcher and made two additional roster moves just before the beginning of practice.

The team released cornerback Peyton Thompson and signed free agent safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith, a cousin of Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie and Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Thompson struggled in one-on-one coverage Thursday night against the Patriots, getting beat twice on fly routes for big gains in the fourth quarter. He was fighting for one of the final available cornerback spots on the roster.

Gruden said the addition of Cromartie-Smith provides extra depth at safety in the absence of Ryan Clark, who sat out practice again on Saturday as he continues to work his way back from a strained hamstring. Gruden does not think Clark’s injury is serious, but “it’s a hamstring … you just never know with those things.”

Cromartie-Smith split time between the Steelers’ active roster and practice squad during the past four seasons, playing alongside and learning from his new teammate, Clark. The Redskins and Steelers run similar defensive schemes, Cromartie-Smith said, which eased the transition. He played mostly with the second team during Saturday’s drills.

“Everything was pretty much going fast forward today,” Cromartie-Smith said. “I’m kind of use to the scheme here. It’s just about getting the terminology down.”

 

 

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