- The Washington Times - Friday, August 5, 2022

ASHBURN — Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera said Friday that the team will consider adding a linebacker after an unexpected retirement and an injury have left the team thinner at the position in recent days. 

Rivera announced after Friday’s practice that linebacker Tre Walker — an undrafted free agent out of Idaho — had informed him that he no longer wanted to play football, marking the second player in camp to abruptly walk away. Last week, tight end Antonio Gandy-Golden retired from the NFL to go back to school.

Walker’s retirement was the latest blow for the Commanders at linebacker as days earlier, Drew White tore his ACL and was waived with an injury settlement. Like Walker, White was an undrafted free agent vying to make the team. 

The Commanders now have seven linebackers left on the roster: Cole Holcomb, Jamin Davis, David Mayo, Khaleke Hudson, De’Jon Harris, Milo Eifler and Bryce Notree.

“Well, it’s gonna prompt us to obviously look at it,” Rivera said when asked if Walker’s retirement would cause the Commanders to add at linebacker. “He’s a young guy that we did like, that we thought had some mobility. Really good tape coming out of Idaho. It’s unfortunate, but if the young man has something else he wants to do, then he’s gonna go on and do it.”

There’s no guarantee the Commanders will sign a linebacker despite the recent developments. After White’s injury, for example, Washington elected to sign cornerback De’Vante Bausby to fill the roster spot. 

Washington, too, may need help at other positions. Rivera said Cole Turner and Sammis Reyes suffered hamstring injuries Friday — also leaving the team thin at tight end as Logan Thomas (ACL) and John Bates (calf) remain out. The Commanders’ offense struggled when practicing goal line situations, which Rivera attributed partly to the lack of tight ends.

“The guys you normally would have in there,” Rivera said, “weren’t in there.” 

Rivera did not specify the severity of the injuries to Turner and Reyes. It remains to be seen whether the pair will participate in Saturday’s stadium practice at FedEx Field. 

The Commanders have already had a lengthy amount of injuries over the first week of camp. Curtis Samuel (conditioning) was back on the side field Friday, joining Bates, wide receiver Dyami Brown, cornerback DeJuan Neal, guard Saahdiq Charles and safety Troy Apke among others to rehab with trainers. The Commanders have been down offensive linemen in guard Trai Turner (quad), center Tyler Larsen (Achilles) and tackle Cornelius Lucas (illness). 

Generally, Rivera has been reluctant to add at linebacker this offseason. While the team signed a handful of undrafted players, Rivera has repeatedly said the team wants to first evaluate the younger players before potentially signing a veteran. When camp opened in late July, Rivera said the Commanders would use the first week to gauge the position before making a decision. 

Rivera and Co. are hopeful that Davis, last year’s 19th overall pick, can take a major step forward in his second season. On Friday, the Commanders rotated in David Mayo with the first team, but Rivera said that was more to examine certain formations rather than a reflection of Davis.

Davis and Holcomb are the team’s projected starters at linebacker.

“That’s just kind of the way some of the defenses are set up,” Rivera said. “We have a couple defenses where we have certain elements of it where it’s what we consider our big group. Other elements we just have one linebacker on the start. So for the most part, the first guy in is gonna be [LB] Cole [Holcomb]. It’s just really the group.” 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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