- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2016

RICHMOND — When Junior Galette tore his left Achilles tendon last season, there were tears. From him, from general manager Scot McCloughan, from teammates. Galette is an emotional dervish who was desperate to prove he was still among the NFL’s best pass-rushers. He was also working to make a better public name for himself.

Yet, last season was swept away from him by the injury. Afterward, he posted various quotes and videos on social media showing his recovery, then worked on the side during organized team activities when the team assembled in the offseason. A final video showed his fate Monday. An innocuous pass rush drill on his own time resulted in Galette tearing his right Achilles tendon this time, chopping another season away from the 28 year old and starting the Washington Redskins search for replacements.

A gutting feeling spread the Redskins organization again. Galette texted some players with the bad news. Others found out on Twitter. Safety DeAngelo Hall had dropped his cell phone in the water and needed a new one, running out to the store Monday night still in the dark about what happened to Galette. Once he set it up, the bad news lit up on his screen.

“It was kind of like deja vu,” Hall said. “I’m like, ‘Is this real?’”

Washington overcame the loss of Galette in 2015, finished 9-7 and made the playoffs. Outside linebacker Preston Smith, then a rookie, came on strong at the end of the season and finished with eight sacks. Still, the pass rush was inconsistent and the Redskins knew they needed to improve it to advance further in 2016. That’s why there was so much excitement about the possible trio of Galette, Ryan Kerrigan — who has 23 sacks in the last two seasons — and Smith, the defense’s young star.

The team was most sorry for Galette as an individual and the effort he had put in. The countless hours he dedicated toward getting back on the field in 2016 ended with him again on a surgical table.

“Just watching him work and getting ready from the previous injury, how hard he was training, the attitude that he came into the building with and the excitement that he was going to bring to this football team only to see it cut short with another Achilles,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “’Devastated’ is a good word for him.”

When the Redskins began camp Thursday, the focus was on Smith. The 6-foot-5, 268-pound outside linebacker arrived at organized team activities in the spring more lean than he was as a rookie. A removal of sweets helped him trim down.

Teammates and coaches also praised his improved knowledge of the game and he’ll have a chance to show he can combine the mental side of the game with his athleticism to make a big jump in his second season.

“I was disappointed because I really wanted to play with him,” Smith said. “I know Junior is a hard-working guy and I think it happened while he was working out. I worked out with him a lot this offseason when I had the chance — it was really frequently week to week. He always went hard. I know him going so hard and the injury happening, I know he was doing what he loved when it happened. It didn’t happen just a mishap.”

If Smith saw on Snapchat that Galette was in Washington during the offseason, he’d reach out to see if they could workout. Now, he’s likely to start in Galette’s place.

“He loved the pass rush and I want to love the pass rush,” Smith said.

The depth is thin at outside linebacker without Galette, but the Redskins are committed to evaluating their younger players on the roster before considering outside help.

Outside linebacker Houston Bates made the practice squad in 2015 after signing as an undrafted free agent and played in 10 regular-season games, though mostly on special teams. Washington also has Lynden Trail and Willie Jefferson. Trail was twice on the Redskins’ practice squad last year. Jefferson recently played in the CFL before signing with Washington in January.

“We are going to look at our young guys here in the building that we’re excited about,” Gruden said. “We still have some good pass-rushers sitting here, and they are going to have to produce.”

Galette said he will have surgery Monday performed by Charlotte foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, who also repaired Galette’s left Achilles tendon. His teammates will be toiling in Richmond’s heat, hoping he feels better and presenting themselves as solutions to replace him before the season starts. Hall isn’t the only one feeling like he’s seen this before.

Anthony Gulizia contributed to this report.

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