- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Eight months after surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, defensive end Erasmus James put on a helmet and participated in individual drills for the first time as a member of the Washington Redskins on Monday morning.

“It felt good, and I’m very excited about tomorrow when we actually put the pads on,” James said after the padless workout. “It definitely felt like I was part of the team, but it kinda sucks when you’re not out there with those guys.”

Defensive line coach John Palermo said the next step for the 6-foot-4, 261-pound James, whom he coached at Wisconsin, will be one-on-one matchups with offensive tackles, probably later this week.

“At this point, it’s up to the trainer and Erasmus,” Palermo said. “What we don’t want to do is rush him and have him jump into something too quickly.”

James, 25, was acquired from Minnesota for a conditional seventh-round draft choice May 27 and had been on the physically unable to perform list as he rehabbed the past three weeks. Washington cut defensive end Kevin Huntley on Monday when it activated James, who said he has been willing to be patient with his recovery since blowing out his knee for the second time in two seasons Dec. 2 against Detroit.

“It hasn’t been frustrating [watching others practice],” James said. “I’ve been excited with the way the Redskins have handled it. They’ve been patient with me, and that’s something that didn’t happen in Minnesota.”

Neither did fulfilling the potential that made him the 18th selection in the 2005 draft. He has played in just 23 games and has recorded 37 tackles and five sacks.

“All I can tell you is that in the past whenever anything has been taken away from Erasmus, he has always come back with a vengeance,” Palermo said. “He wants to establish himself as a good player in this league. In the training room and weight room we’ve seen that desire to get back healthy. He’s done everything they’ve asked him to do plus some. If he can … get a clean bill of health my belief is he’ll excite some people.”

Or as James put it: “I feel like I’m ready to go out there and show what a first-rounder is.”

Thomas finally returns

Eighteen days after he pulled a hamstring, rookie receiver Devin Thomas returned to team drills Monday morning.

“It feels good,” said Thomas, Washington’s top pick at 34th overall. “I was pushing it pretty good [last week]. It’s really a mental thing. I know it’s pretty much healthy, so I just gotta keep fighting through it. I really got to push the playbook hard. I’m a couple steps behind, so I gotta really try to focus in, and I think I’ll be right back in step.”

Thomas hopes to play in Saturday’s preseason game at the New York Jets, and coach Jim Zorn said that’s a possibility.

“Today, he did everything,” Zorn said. “We tried to pull him out, and he kept himself in. He plopped on the ground one time to make a catch and bounced right up. I thought he accelerated very well. As he progresses this week, we could see him this weekend.”

Praying for Bugel

No one at Redskin Park is feeling the absence of offensive line coach Joe Bugel more than tight ends coach Rennie Simmons.

The men coached together with Washington from 1981 to 1989 and reunited here in 2004. Simmons is filling in as the line coach with Bugel in Arizona at the bedside of his daughter Holly, who has been battling cancer for more than a year.

“Everybody that I know of has had Holly on their prayer list,” Simmons said. “Joe’s family, and it hurts.”

Injury update

Safeties Chris Horton and Vernon Fox returned to practice Monday. Horton worked in individual drills for the first time since contracting a colon infection after the Aug. 3 game against Indianapolis. Fox missed the Buffalo game for personal reasons.

Cornerback Shawn Springs and safety LaRon Landry remained out with injuries, defensive tackle Lorenzo Alexander was absent to attend the birth of his second child and tight end Todd Yoder attended his grandmother’s funeral.

Offensive tackle Todd Wade, who suffered a high ankle sprain against the Colts, was out of a walking boot.

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