- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2021

ASHBURN —  Curtis Samuel knows when his body will feel 100%. Dealing with a groin injury, the Washington wide receiver says he’ll be at full strength when he can explode in and out of routes and can use his speed to make people miss. “Things that I do,” Samuel said.

As for whether he’s now at the level? Good luck prying an answer out of him.

“It’s game week,” Samuel said Monday.  “I’m not about to give all them tips.”

It is indeed game week for Washington as the team prepares for Sunday’s home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers. And for the first time since late May, Samuel participated in team drills after missing training camp with the groin. Samuel said he was “feeling good” upon the return.

Coach Ron Rivera maintains he’s optimistic Samuel will be ready to play the opener. The main factor for Samuel now, however, is whether his conditioning gets up to speed in time. On his first day back, Washington limited Samuel’s workload — giving him a set amount of plays to participate in. 

“We wanted to make sure we could see the things that we needed to see,” Rivera said. “ Watch him catch the ball, watch him burst and turn it up field, watch him catch the ball through traffic, watch him go deep. I mean, we got to see all that today.”

Washington, of course, signed Samuel to a three-year, $34.5 million contract to bolster its receiving corps. After ranking last in offensive efficiency last year, Washington determined it needed to add more speed and targeted Samuel — a receiver Rivera and his staff know quite well. 

Samuel played his first four seasons with the Carolina Panthers, three of which were under Rivera. He also reunites with offensive coordinator Scott Turner. 

But the on-field reunion has mostly been delayed. Samuel declined to elaborate how he suffered his groin injury, saying it only happened “a while ago.” Rivera first said Samuel was dealing with a “twinge” in early June and the wideout went on to not practice in the team’s mandatory minicamp and almost all of training camp.

Samuel said the injury left him frustrated. Complicating matters, too, was that the 25-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 — limiting his ability to fully rehab the injury. He missed a total of 10 days on the reserve list, not being activated off the list until Aug. 9.

On Aug. 15, Samuel participated in individual drills in camp. But he was held out of team drills and in the weeks until Monday, Samuel’s work was mostly relegated to a side field while he worked with a trainer.

“It’s definitely been a tough road,” Samuel said. “I wish I was out there for the start of camp, but a little setback. So my main goal was just to focus on rehabbing. … My goal is when I’m out there, I’m going to stay out there. I don’t want to come back and have these lingering through the season.”

Maybe it was no surprise then that when asked of his goal for the season, Samuel said it was to stay healthy. Since the second-rounder was drafted in 2017, Samuel has played a full season only once — appearing in 53 of 64 games across four years. Before his groin injury, Samuel was sidelined by an ankle injury, an illness and a knee injury. 

The most serious of those issues was Samuel’s fractured ankle his rookie year, limiting him to only nine games. 

“My goal is just to be healthy, because if I’m healthy, I’m playing good, and if I’m playing good, I’m feeling good,” Samuel said. “I have a bunch of confidence. As long as I’m out there, everything will be good.”

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