- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2018

RICHMOND — After they were the most injured team in the NFL last season, the Washington Redskins weren’t going to stand pat. The franchise built a whole new recovery room at its training facility in Richmond — installing things like cryogenic chambers and tanks for salt baths.

Coach Jay Gruden even touted — and remember, he’s a football coach, not a doctor — the team’s “foot heal stuff.”

“Whatever you need, we’ve got you covered to get you back on the field,” said Gruden, who has also adjusted practice times in hopes of keeping players healthy. “We’ve even got a Gatorade ice machine, for God’s sake.”

But, Gruden acknowledged, improvements off the field only go so far.

“At the end of the day, these guys are going to have to go out there, hit some people and show they can play the game of football,” Gruden said as the Redskins reported to camp ahead of Thursday’s first practice.

Entering his fifth season at the helm after a disappointing 7-9 campaign last year, Gruden said in January that he knows his job could be on the line if the Redskins‘ upcoming season goes south. He called the 2017 record “not good enough” — even with the injuries.

Gruden, who has made the playoffs only once in four seasons, said he has high expectations for this year’s team.

“I don’t think we have any glaring weakness,” Gruden said. “We’ve addressed a lot of them throughout the draft and free agency and veteran guys here. I think our depth has been addressed. Now it’s a matter of going out there and playing together.”

For the first time in years, the Redskins will have stability at quarterback.

Washington, of course, traded for Alex Smith instead of re-signing Kirk Cousins, whose contract status often overshadowed the state of the team. In addition to Smith’s arrival, the Redskins think they now have a solid cast of offensive weapons, a strong offensive line and a promising young defense to compete.

The Redskins, however, will take their time re-incorporating the high number of players still recovering from injuries.

The franchise has only two players — defensive tackle Stacy McGee (core muscle surgery and cornerback Josh Holsey (foot) — who will open camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

But key pieces, like left tackle Trent Williams, tight end Jordan Reed and running back Chris Thompson, were unable to practice during OTAs. They will be eased into training camp.

“We’ll have a plan for these guys moving forward,” Gruden said. “Mainly get them through individual (drills). Get them some limited team reps early, if any. And then just slowly adjust their roles as they feel better.”

The Redskins plan to be cautious. Wide receiver Josh Doctson received a precautionary MRI on his Achilles, but Gruden said the results came back clean. The third-year wideout missed most of his entire rookie season with an Achilles injury.

“Nothing showed up, so why would it be alarming?” Gruden said. “We’re good.”

If there was a silver lining to the Redskins‘ injury-filled 2017, the situation allowed the coaching staff to evaluate other players. Gruden added the injuries helped the team’s depth. 

Optimism, though, is always high this time of year, and it will be up to the Redskins to prove they have improved. 

“The good thing about this football team, in my opinion, is that we’ve got a good core group of veterans that they don’t need a lot of talking to,” Gruden said. “They know what it takes to be a successful football player and football team.

“Now, it’s just a matter of us gelling as a group and playing well on Sundays.”

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