Redskins Texans Football

Tight end Jordan Reed is perhaps the Redskins’ best receiver. But, in six NFL seasons, he’s never played in more than 14 games in a year due to various injuries.

At this year's NFL owners meetings, one session was devoted to health and safety, which included a presentation of injury data from teams.

The most injured team in 2018? The same as the year before: The Washington Redskins.

And for the second year in a row, the Redskins are trying to do something about it.

During last year's offseason, the Redskins flew their medical personnel to Europe, to review the methods being used by top international soccer clubs, who have to keep their players fresh over a long season that includes multiple leagues and international series.

The result was a number of new techniques and devices added to Redskins Park, including an ice machine that made ice out of Gatorade.

It didn't work.

So after another injury plagued campaign, Redskins team president Bruce Allen brought in outside consultants who are experts in the field, and asked them to take a look at everything related to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of injuries.

Allen said the Redskins wanted to leave the slate as blank as possible.

"We have all the data on the injuries, and we gave them all of it," he said. "We asked them to see if there was a rhyme or reason.

"We didn't want any preconceived answers."

And?

"Ironically, they're so unrelated it's almost impossible."

Coach Jay Gruden offered this paraphrasing of the report: "Gosh, that's too bad, man. That's unfortunate."

To the average fan, leading the league in injuries two years in a row feels like it should be impossible. Inside the Redskins building, the sentiment is similar.

But if there's a common theme or fix, no one has been able to pinpoint it. There were a number of smaller recommendations, but nothing big enough to address the fact that the Redskins put 26 players on injured reserve in 2017, and 28 in 2018.

How the issue is viewed ultimately colors how fans view the decision to bring back Gruden, his staff, and most of the core pieces of the roster for the 2019 season.

Argument 1: The Redskins are just unlucky

There was no anticipating that Alex Smith would get hurt when he was signed to a 3-year contract, and setting any performance issues aside, no reason it was a bad idea from an injury standpoint.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the Redskins were on their fourth quarterback.

"I think we were the only team in the league who had a quarterback suffer a broken leg," Allen said. "And we had two of them."

Gruden cited the array of injuries his teams have had, nothing that it's not a matter of how the Redskins handle a particular joint or ailment.

"You're looking at two (torn) pecs, you're looking at ankles, you're looking at feet," Gruden said. "It's not so much muscle related, it's knees - Geron Christian blew out his knee. Is that overwork?

"We've had a shoulder. Yeah, the injuries were all over the place. I wish we just had one so we could target it and say, 'That's why.' But I don't think that will ever be the case."

After the Monday Night Football loss to Philadelphia last year where Colt McCoy broke his leg and Ryan Anderson, Tony Bergstrom and Fabian Moreau were all injured, team owner Dan Snyder was in the locker room offering a word of consolation to players.

Snyder's tenure has been a rocky one at times, but he's always been willing to spend when it comes to player health, including the investments he made last offseason on the recovery center.

Argument 2: The Redskins are the victims of poor planning

The Redskins went into the 2018 campaign relying on Shawn Lauvao to be the team's starting left guard all season.

In Lauvao's previous three seasons, he had played 3, 14 and 9 games for the Redskins. The fact that he made it just 5 games in 2018 should not have come as a huge surprise.

The Redskins similarly have other players on the roster where the depth at the position is not developed well enough to withstand season-ending injuries, including wide receiver, where Paul Richardson tried to fight through injuries last year before ultimately landing on IR.

One source of fan angst has been the intense work offensive line coach Bill Callahan puts his team through daily, though Callahan has been coaching since 1980, so it seems as though if there were a correlation between his coaching and injuries, it would be well established by now.

"We'll look at all of it, for sure. But I love the way Bill works those guys," Gruden said. "It's necessary."

Gruden noted the turnover at the position, as well as the reliance on new players and rookies, as making additional practice essential to get ready for games.

One other theory is that the Redskins are more likely to draft players with injury risks, to try to maximize value. It appears they did so again this year in the first round, taking Mississippi State's Montez Sweat, who was left off some teams' draft boards because of a reported heart condition (other doctors have disagreed with the diagnosis).

Last year's draft class included four players who ended up on IR - Derrius Guice, Troy Apke, Christian and Trey Quinn.

The tight end position, with Jordan Reed, is another example.

"We have to go in there and prepare like they are going to be there 16 weeks and utilize their abilities the best way we can," Gruden said. "And if they do get hurt, we have to have a plan moving forward. Sometimes that's easier said than done, especially with Jordan. Because we count on him so much in the passing game that when he goes down it's like, 'Well that play isn't any good because Jordan is not in it.' Or, 'That formation is no good because Jordan is not in.' It shrinks your package down a little bit."

Gruden was asked whether that's really a sound approach, given Reed's injury history.

"We're going to buck the trends, man," the coach said with a laugh. "Jordan is going to be just fine. I promise you. Jordan...he's is working his tail off as did last year. Coming into the season, I think he's going to be more healthy than he's ever been."

How the team holds up in 2019 is likely to be telling.

Lightning striking twice can be a wild coincidence. A third time would feel like more than just bad luck.

mphillips@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6546

@michaelpRTD

Recommended for you

Commenting is limited to Times-Dispatch subscribers. To sign up, click here.
If you’re already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.