- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2016

ASHBURN — When Matt Jones initially separated his left shoulder in the Washington Redskins‘ second preseason game against the New York Jets, the running back was uncertain about the severity of the injury.

What he did know was that he didn’t want to be slapped with label of being injury-prone, especially after he ended his rookie season by missing the final three games, including the Redskins playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, because of a hip contusion.

That perception drove Jones through his rehabilitation from the shoulder injury, a process that has gone well. Jones said on Friday that he is “95 percent,” and that by Monday’s regular-season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he’ll be “100.”

“I feel like I made some big strides and recovery-wise,” Jones said. “I feel good about myself and good how practice went this week and stuff like that, so I feel like I’m ready to go this year. I didn’t want to just end [last season] on an injury and then come back and start this one on an injury. I’m happy about my progress and happy to be back out there with the team.”

Of course, the biggest question is how Jones will respond when he is hit full speed, something that is yet to happen as the team practiced this week. The Redskins had padded practices on Monday and Wednesday. On Monday, Jones wore a yellow non-contact jersey. On Wednesday he did not, but coach Jay Gruden said he was not hit hard in that session.

“Today he ran around nice and I don’t think he feels it, but we’ll only find out on Monday night,” Gruden said on Friday. “But he’s a tough guy, man, and the reason why you like him, you like his toughness and I think he can play through a little soreness which a lot of running backs do in the National Football League.

“It’s just a way of life. When you sign up to play running back in the National Football League, you’re going to be a little sore, and he will be throughout the season and he’s tough enough to deal with it.”

The Redskins plan is to incorporate a rotation on Monday with the trio of Jones, undrafted rookie Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson. While Thompson is entrenched as the team’s third-down back, Kelley is expected to have a similar role Jones did last season when he shared carries with former Redskins running back Alfred Morris.

“[Running backs] coach [Randy] Jordan does a great job getting a flow and a feel for the game in terms of how those guys are going,” offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. “So how we’re moving the football will dictate who’s playing and what certain situations those guys are playing in. We’re hopeful that Matt will stay healthy but I think you’ll see a good rotation of all three of those guys.”

At Friday’s practice, wide receiver Josh Doctson and defensive end Kendall Reyes were limited. Left tackle Ty Nsekhe was out with an illness. Reyes has a groin injury, but the Redskins are hopeful he will play on Monday. Doctson, who missed the preseason with a left Achilles tendon strain, has a less certain status as the team continues to evaluate his return on a day-to-day basis.

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