The Washington Football Team is placing wide receiver Curtis Samuel on injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least the next three games while dealing with a nagging groin injury.
Coach Ron Rivera said Friday that Samuel‘s placement on the list would be “short term.”
The NFL carried over last year’s modified injured reserve rules, allowing teams to bring back players after three weeks instead of eight. Rivera said the measure would allow Samuel to focus on rehabbing the injury, rather than trying to rush back.
Still, the move is a disappointment for Washington and Samuel, given the team gave the 25-year-old a three-year, $34.5 million contract during the offseason. Samuel appeared to suffer a setback in Wednesday’s practice, limping out of a route in individual drills. It looked like he had reaggravated the injury just days after finally returning to practice.
Now, he will miss Sunday’s home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers, Thursday’s prime-time matchup with the New York Giants and a Week 3 showdown against the Buffalo Bills, at a minimum.
“It’s just one of those things that at some point, we’ve got to say, ‘Let’s just let you heal up and let’s let you go out and focus in on getting better and ready to play,’” Rivera said, “‘as opposed to, ‘Man, I’ve got to feel better and feel better so I can play.’”
Samuel was brought to Washington as a much-needed deep threat, with the team valuing his speed, ability to stretch the field and line up in multiple spots. The coaching staff was already well-versed in Samuel‘s skill set as Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner coached him in Carolina, where Samuel spent the first four years of his career.
But the transition to Washington hasn’t been smooth. During OTAs in June, Samuel suffered a groin injury, forcing him to miss the next few months. Washington went practically all of training camp without Samuel practicing, and the wideout also missed time after he caught COVID-19.
Samuel returned to practice on Monday but wasn’t able to fully participate in Wednesday’s session. He was listed as “DNP,” or did not practice, on the injury report for Wednesday and Thursday.
Rivera said Washington’s game plan against the Chargers won’t be affected by Samuel‘s absence. The team has maintained it has confidence in wideouts Cam Sims and rookie Dyami Brown, both of whom will be used to help fill Samuel‘s slot.
At one point during Friday’s press conference, Rivera grew visibly agitated over questions about Samuel‘s health, particularly when the option of surgery was brought up.
Rivera emphatically denied that surgery would be a possibility.
“Don’t even bring that up, OK?” Rivera said. “I don’t want to start any rumors, any crap. So this has got nothing to do with any of that, guys. It’s just about giving a guy an opportunity to get a chance to rehab the way he needed to because, unfortunately, when we had to put him on [the reserve/COVID-19 list], he missed basically two weeks. OK? We’re trying to catch up from those lost two weeks. We pushed him a little bit last week, he‘s not ready, so we figured this would be the best thing to do.
“It’s got nothing to do with [surgery]. Do not even mention that, please. OK?” he said. “That is not a word, not an option as far as we’re concerned right now. It’s not even on the table. Please, do not start something that’s not there.”
The soonest Samuel can be eligible to practice is Sept. 27. He can then be activated off injured reserve, and if Washington chooses to do so, the team will have 21 days to place him back on the active roster. If the team doesn’t do so once that 21-day window starts, Samuel will be forced to miss the rest of the season.