ASHBURN | Sporting a face mask, wide receiver Curtis Samuel worked to the side field and observed practice with teammates Sunday for the first time since going on the COVID-19 reserve list late month. But coach Ron Rivera said there’s no timetable for when Samuel expects to be at full speed.
Samuel, 25, was placed on the reserve list July 29 — but the team’s marquee free agent addition has yet to practice in training camp as he’s also been nursing a groin injury that kept him out of the team’s mandatory minicamp in June.
Rivera has said the team will be cautious with Samuel, who signed a three-year, $34.5 million contract in March.
Samuel’s familiarity with offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s scheme — they overlapped in Carolina, where Samuel spent four seasons — should help him get up to speed whenever he returns, Rivera said.
“He’s been in the system,” Rivera said. “He knows it. Yeah, you’d love him to catch a few reps maybe in the last preseason game, but we’re not going to rush him out there. He’s coming back, he’ll be healthy, he’ll be ready to roll.
“But we’re going to ease him back into it because, again, he knows the system, he’ll pick it up again very, very quickly, and it’ll really be about him building a rapport with the quarterbacks.”
Washington’s last preseason game isn’t until Aug. 28 against the Baltimore Ravens. As part of the NFL’s expanded schedule to 17 games, NFL teams will only play three preseason games moving forward.
Washington’s preseason opener is Thursday when the team travels to New England to face the Patriots.
Rivera said Samuel has been able to stay in contact with coaches while in isolation. It’s unclear how much rehab Samuel has been able to do for his groin injury while on the reserve list, though Rivera said last week that the wideout has been in touch with the training staff.
A deep threat, Samuel is known for his speed and ability to play multiple spots. Last year, primarily lined up in the slot, Samuel caught 77 passes for 851 yards — both career highs.
But under Turner, Samuel mostly played on the outside, where he was more productive in terms of touchdowns. Samuel scored a career-high six times in 2019, when Turner was the Panthers offensive coordinator.