- The Washington Times - Monday, August 6, 2012

Chris Cooley will play some fullback in the Washington Redskins’ preseason opener on Thursday night at Buffalo, he said Monday. First-stringer Darrel Young has been sidelined by a strained left hamstring, giving Cooley, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver among tight ends, the opportunity to showcase his versatility in his attempt to make the roster.

“As far as getting the blocks done, I’ve never had a problem getting the blocks done out of the backfield,” Cooley said after Monday’s walkthrough. “Would you ever look at me as a punishing, Mike Sellers-, Darrel Young-type of blocker? No, but I’ll get the block in the hole and I’m going to get my hat on the linebacker and the running backs always have a chance to make a cut.”

Cooley’s experience playing fullback gives him a bit of an advantage in the competition for tight end roster spots. Niles Paul is physically capable of playing fullback, coach Mike Shanahan has said, but he is unfamiliar with the position.

Paul could learn it, but he’s already in the process of transitioning from receiver to tight end. Cooley, meanwhile, has game experience at fullback. He played there against Dallas last season ahead of Sellers and recently has taken some snaps at fullback in team drills during practice.

Thursday’s game will be Cooley’s first since last Oct. 16. He finished last season on injured reserve because of an injured left knee.

“I couldn’t move well last year,” he said. “I had a lot of fluid in my knee at all times. I had a hard time going two days in a row. I’m continuing to build speed. I’m continuing to get better on my feet. I think my routes have looked better throughout training camp.

“I feel like I’m getting back to the player I know I can be. I think our staff knows what I can do. I think I know what I’m capable of. That’s what everyone expects of me. I have to continue to provide that on a daily basis.”

Lichtensteiger targets opener

Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger expects to recover from arthroscopic left knee surgery in time to play in the regular season opener on Sept. 9, but his confidence in his knee is a bit shaken after he injured it during practice on July 27.

Lichtensteiger last fall had surgery to repair a torn ACL, MCL and medial and lateral meniscus. He was cleared to fully participate during training camp, but he suffered a setback when he hyperextended his knee on the second day of camp.

“I definitely was healthy, so it doesn’t make me feel good [about the knee] at all,” Lichtensteiger said Monday. “I’m encouraged by the fact that it was a minor thing. The prognosis is good. They expect me to be back out.”

Lichtensteiger hyperextended his knee on the final play of practice on Friday, July 27, he said. He hoped to make it through Saturday’s practice so he could rest it during the Sunday off-day, but he pulled himself out of Saturday’s walkthrough because it became too sore.

He left open the possibility of playing during the preseason, but his main target is the season-opener at New Orleans on Sept. 9.

“I feel OK,” he said. “I’m a week out [from surgery] now. It feels better than any other surgery I’ve ever had. I guess that means it’s nice and minor. I feel like everything is going good.”

Second-year lineman Maurice Hurt has replaced Lichtensteiger with the first string.

Morgan back in action

Wide receiver Josh Morgan practiced Monday afternoon after missing a week with a strained left hamstring.

“They’re trying to see where I was at right now,” Morgan said before practice. “They’ve been doing a great job handling it, so I’m just doing whatever they tell me to do.”

Morgan has had to be patient and resist his desire to practice with his new team.

“[Receivers] coach Ike Hilliard has been in my ear all the time because he’s been through it, you know, coming to a new team,” Morgan said. “It would be frustrating for most, but I’ve got great teammates. They’ve been doing a great job keeping me focused and keeping my mind right.”

Morgan’s health is a major issue with the season approaching. Coaches foresee him as a receiver that can block, as well as make plays in the passing game, so he projects to be one of the centerpieces of the offense.

In addition to his hamstring injury, he’s working back from offseason surgery to repair a broken right leg and torn ankle ligaments.

“It feels normal,” Morgan said.

Extra points

• Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (heat illness) returned to practice Monday after missing Saturday.

• Rookie Kirk Cousins will quarterback the third string in Thursday’s preseason opener, Shanahan said.

• Right guard Chris Chester left practice after mildly spraining his left ankle. Shanahan hopes he’ll be better in a day or two.

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