- The Washington Times - Friday, August 14, 2015

CLEVELAND — Niles Paul will miss the upcoming season after breaking his left ankle in the Washington Redskins‘ preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns on Thursday, coach Jay Gruden said.

“I’m sick about it,” Gruden said after the Redskins defeated the Browns, 20-17. “He means a lot to this team — in the locker room, on the field, off the field, so you know, we’re upset about it, but fortunately, he’s going to work hard to get himself right, and we have total faith that he’ll be back for us next year.”

Paul was engaged with Browns outside linebacker Paul Kruger on a running play with 3:10 remaining in the first quarter when he was hit in the left leg by inside linebacker Craig Robertson.

His ankle appeared to bend inward, and after being surrounded by teammates on the field, Paul was taken to the locker room on a cart.

The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Paul was in line to play a large role in the Redskins‘ offense this season, likely as their top tight end. He had 39 catches for 507 yards and a touchdown last season, stepping in frequently for the injured Jordan Reed, and signed a three-year, $6 million contract in March to avoid his first foray into free agency.

He also played a large role on special teams since entering the league as a wide receiver in 2011. Drafted in the fifth round out of Nebraska, he made the conversion to tight end the following season under then-coach Mike Shanahan.

SEE ALSO: Robert Griffin III, Redskins open preseason with victory over Browns

“He was playing so well in practice and doing things so well that you just hate to see that happen to a good guy,” said inside linebacker Adam Hayward, last year’s special teams captain.

“Just, I mean, he was a smart player. He’s fast. He’s aggressive. All those things are gone now, so we’re just got to find somebody else to kind of step in and do that.”

Reed and Logan Paulsen, the other two tight ends who spent all of last season on the Redskins‘ roster, missed Thursday’s game because of injury. Reed strained a hamstring on Monday and was held out for precautionary reasons, while Paulsen sprained his right big toe on Aug. 6 and, Gruden acknowledged, could also potentially miss the season.

The Redskins have three other tight ends on the roster — Je’Ron Hamm, Chase Dixon and Devin Mahina — but none of them have played in a regular-season game. Hamm even left Thursday’s contest after being poked in the left eye, but Gruden didn’t expect it to be anything that would linger.

Fullback Darrel Young, one of Paul’s closest friends on the team, said afterward that Paul knew immediately that he had broken the ankle.

“It’s a huge loss for us, really,” Gruden said. “One, he’s a great player. He’s worked so hard to get himself where he is, but two, he’s a great leader for this football team. The staff and the players are sick about it right now. He’s going to be OK, I’m sure, but it’s a major loss for us.”

Redd injures right knee; status uncertain

Gruden said a preliminary diagnosis showed that running back Silas Redd tore the ACL and MCL in his right knee when he was tackled and fumbled in the third quarter.

Redd, fighting to make the team a year after he did so as an undrafted running back out of USC, said he’ll undergo an MRI examination on Friday.

“I’ve just got to stay positive, man,” Redd said after the game, his right knee immobilized in a heavy brace. “I’m not dead. I’m breathing, so it’s all good.”

Strong safety Duke Ihenacho left the game with a bruised left arm and did not return for precautionary reasons, while rookie running back Matt Jones was evaluated for a concussion in the first quarter but returned to the game.

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