- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2016

ASHBURN — When Shawn Lauvao underwent a total of five surgeries on his feet and legs in the span of four months, the looming concern was whether the Washington Redskins’ left guard would be healthy enough to return to the high level he was playing at before he was injured last season.

The Redskins brought him along slowly in training camp and the preseason. Lauvao shared snaps with Spencer Long, who filled the void at left guard for 13 games last season. Though Long took snaps with the starters when they played in preseason games, coach Jay Gruden did not commit to a starter at the position.

On Wednesday, Gruden announced that Lauvao will start on Monday night in the Redskins season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The fact that Lauvao got the nod was a culmination of his strong work in the preseason. It mattered that Long sprained his right ankle in the Redskins’ third preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, but that injury was not the lone reason Washington will turn to Lauvao on Monday.

“Healthwise initially, but both performance and health,” Gruden said. “Shawn has done an excellent job. We weren’t sure how Shawn was going to recover from his feet issues and he’s come back in a big way. He was our starter before Spencer became the starter when Shawn got hurt and Shawn has proven he’s back in tip-top shape and done an excellent job. I felt great about both of these guys, I really do. I wouldn’t bat an eye whoever is in there, Spencer or Shawn, but when we run out on the first play of the game against Pittsburgh, it’ll be Shawn this week.”

Throughout training camp and the preseason, Long has also been taking snaps as the backup center, a transition the team asked him to make to help provide depth behind center Kory Lichtensteiger. The veteran center played in five regular-season games in 2015 because of a pinched nerve and guard Josh LeRibeus struggled to be consistent in Lichtensteiger’s absence. Second-year center Austin Reiter made the team this season after spending last year on the practice squad, but Gruden said the team would be comfortable using Long at center if they need to.

“It’s not an easy transition, we figured that out,” Gruden said. “He is still a work in progress but we feel like his upside at center is great, we really do. He’s going to continue to get a lot of work in practice and if his number is called — hopefully it won’t be — but if it is, he will be ready. He’s a great asset for us on the offensive line because he can backup both guard positions and he can play center as effective as our starters right now and not many teams can say that.”

Jones participates; Reyes out; Doctson limited

After wearing a yellow noncontact jersey in Monday’s practice, running back Matt Jones returned on Wednesday with that restriction lifted and was able to participate. Jones separated his left shoulder in the Redskins’ second preseason game against the New York Jets and was held out the remainder of the preseason.

Defensive end Kendall Reyes remained out with a groin injury and did light conditioning. With the game on Monday instead of Sunday, the team is hopeful the extra day will help Reyes get healthy.

Rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson did some individual drills, but was limited. He came off the physically unable to perform list on Saturday after missing the preseason with a strained left Achilles tendon. Doctson returned to practice on Monday.

“It’s day-to-day as far as how he feeling and that stuff,” Gruden said. “It’s a unique deal and we’re still trying to figure out the best way to approach it.”

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