On Thursday, the second day of camp, Samuel itched a cornerback in impressive fashion, giving teammate Terry McLaurin reviews of his days at Ohio State and hinting that his injury woes could be behind him. But the next day, Samuel only participated in a few exercises and didn’t do it at all on Saturday and Monday. Rivera said Samuel complained about his hamstrings and a sore, tight lower back.
On Sunday, the commanders’ planned day off, Samuel met with senior athletic trainer Al Bellamy and his staff.
“They put together a plan … and they’re executing it now,” Rivera said. “There will be ramp-ups and they will slow down again. … There will be times when he interacts, gets some of the 11v11 work and stuff like that. But it’s all part of the plan. The ultimate goal really is the regular season.”
Last year, Rivera spent weeks in camp and the regular season, insisting Samuel, who was sidelined with a groin injury, was fine and following a plan. Rivera often said the team restricted Samuel “out of caution.” In late November, it was revealed that Samuel had undergone core muscle surgery in June.
At Ashburn, as it has become a habit for Samuel to watch practice rather than join in, there was a grim sense of deja vu.
“We have to be smart about it,” Rivera said. “We’re sticking to the plan”
After ramping up for the first four days, running back Antonio Gibson attended full team drills for the first time Monday. That was the plan from the start for the 24-year-old running back, who sustained multiple injuries including a hip and toe in his first two seasons.
On the field, Gibson looked more fluid and explosive than last season when he was playing at about 235 pounds. He lost about 10 pounds of “bad weight” that offseason in order to become faster and more explosive.
During an 11-on-11 replay, running backs coach Randy Jordan praised Gibson for picking up a blitz in pass protection.
“I feel great,” Gibson said. “Finally good to be back.”
The defense dominated for the second time in four training sessions. In a four-game sequence, three interceptions were caught — two by Carson Wentz and one by Taylor Heinicke.
On the first side, cornerback Kendall Fuller — probably the best player in camp so far — undercut receiver Cam Sims by a short stretch. On the next play, Wentz brought down 6-foot-6 tight-end Cole Turner on a game-changing route, and safety Kam Curl slid under for an easy pick.
Two plays later, rookie safety Percy Butler jumped a route to cap the run.
“Ahhh!” Defenders coach Chris Harris cried out and looked like he was going to heaven with happiness. “They’re going to start saying the s— ‘Commando Lockdown!’ ”
During a water break, Curl went to see wide receivers coach Drew Terrell, who was standing alongside Jahan Dotson, McLaurin and Samuel.
“We told you to calm down before practice!” Curl said, grinning. Terrell approached him to good-naturedly shadow box him.
The offense had some success in red-zone practice, but in the final round of 11-on-11, Wentz threw another easy interception, this time to keep Bobby McCain safe.
“[The offense] probably gonna have to listen to it all day,” Gibson said ruefully. “So we’re going to get out of here tomorrow and take care of the boys.”
Right guard Trai Turner (square), tight end John Bates, defensive back DeJuan Neal, defensive back Troy Apke and Samuel missed practice with injuries. Samuel wore a black sleeve on his right leg; Bates had one on his left.
Center Chase Roullier (Fibula), activated from the physically incapable list last week, took his first team snaps Monday in nine-on-nine drills but didn’t participate in 11-on-11.
During red zone practice, Wentz threw a dart into the back end zone and Cole Turner dove towards it, accidentally going headfirst into the field goal brace. He got up instantly and unevenly, and a coach put him on tests in the backfield. A few games later the tight end reentered and looked fine for the rest of practice.
Former defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, who announced his retirement on Friday, returned to practice Monday to advise the defensive ends. On Saturday he expressed an interest in coaching, saying he loves football too much to give up, and Rivera said the team put together a program for Kerrigan to spend a few weeks coaching defensively in an unofficial capacity.
“See what the grind is all about — see if it works for you,” Rivera said. “I told him, . . . ‘It took me about a year and a half [into retirement] before deciding that I really wanted to get into coaching. … He wanted to get a feel for it. We’ll give it a couple of weeks and then we’ll reevaluate.”
On Tuesday, the sixth training session of the camp, the commanders put on pads for the first time.
“The intensity will be high because it always is,” Rivera said. “We just have to be smart to make sure we’re careful to do things right. We don’t want to hurt anyone.”
Training will be one of the highlights of a long week: Washington will train every day through Friday at Ashburn and Saturday night at FedEx Field.