ASHBURN — Antonio Gibson says he lost weight this offseason to help him better withstand the grind of an NFL season. Through two seasons, the Washington Commanders running back has dealt with a series of painful ailments — turf toe as a rookie, a shin fracture last season — and so the 24-year-old scaled back his diet in an attempt to stay healthy.
His coach, however, thinks Gibson’s slim-down could have another positive effect.
“Quickness,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “With him, it is about quickness.”
Gibson made strides last season, rushing for more than 1,000 yards for the first time since entering the league in 2020 as a third-round pick out of Memphis. But the wide receiver-turned-back seemed to be lacking the same type of explosiveness that dazzled teammates the year prior.
Gibson’s average fell from 4.7 yards per carry to 4. His longest rush went for 27 yards, down from 40. And while Gibson did have a career-high 73-yard touchdown reception in Week 3 against the Buffalo Bills, that highlight was one of just six plays all season in which he gained at least 20 yards. He had seven of those as a rookie — despite appearing in two fewer games, playing nearly 200 fewer snaps and receiving 94 fewer touches.
A player’s efficiency can decrease with an increased workload, but Gibson still felt like he needed to get in better shape.
“The explosiveness, of course, if you are lighter, you are more tone fit,” Gibson said. “You get in and out of cuts quicker, you can go to distance.”
Ironically, after losing weight in an attempt to stay healthy, Gibson opened training camp with a hamstring injury. The running back got knicked up during an offseason workout in June — he blamed the injury on a lack of hydration — and so the Commanders’ training staff wanted to gradually work Gibson back in the fold.
He returned to practice Saturday and participated when the Commanders put on pads Tuesday. In Monday’s session, the running back ran a swift route in the red zone to beat cornerback Kendall Fuller for the touchdown.
After the play, Fuller protested that he would have made the tackle near the goal line in a real game. But that might have been wishful thinking. Gibson appeared to have a step ahead.
“He looked pretty spry,” Rivera said.
On paper, Gibson’s weight loss may not be dramatic. The Commanders list him at 221 pounds for camp, and Gibson has said that he weighed 236 at the start of last season. Still, 15 pounds for a professional athlete can be telling. And Gibson, these days, is noticeably slimmer. His body composition has changed.
Gibson hopes a healthier build will allow him to focus on adding to his game rather than worrying about conditioning.
One of his goals this year is to become more consistent running vertically rather than horizontally to take better advantage of the holes created by the team’s offensive line.
“The one thing these guys have to understand is as you get aged in this league, your body changes and certain demands come,” Rivera said. “I think now, as he’s getting older, this is his third year in the NFL. You want him to understand how important it’s to be in shape and stay in shape.”