“I’m optimistic about it, just listening to everything I’ve heard,” Rivera said. “It’s very promising. But … the plan is to start his watch on Wednesday and see how he does and if he continues to develop there’s a very good chance he’ll be able to play on Sunday.”
When a player on the non-football injury list returns to practice, his team has three weeks to decide whether to place him on the active list or leave him on the list for the rest of the season.
Robinson’s progress in recovery has pointed to a quick return once his four-week mandate on the roster expires. But his reintroduction to padded practices and his football conditioning may determine how soon he will be available to play.
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“We also have to deal with what he’s going to go through physically and mentally,” Rivera said. “I mean, this is a different set of circumstances. I don’t know of any other player that I’ve coached that has had to go through this.
On the evening of August 28, Robinson was shot twice, in the knee and hip area, in what DC police described as an armed robbery attempt by two male assailants. Robinson was taken to MedStar Washington Hospital Center and underwent surgery the following day.
According to Rivera, the bullet in Robinson’s knee avoided any ligaments, tendons or bones, allowing for a faster recovery than if he had needed a more extensive repair.
Robinson was back at the team’s facility two days after the shooting, using crutches and carrying a bag of Oreos for his fellow runners. And about two weeks later, he was riding a stationary bike and working with an athletic trainer during training to regain his strength and flexibility.
On Sept. 25, less than a month after he was shot, Robinson ran routes during warmups ahead of Washington’s Week 3 meeting with the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field, a promising sign of his continued recovery.
A third-round pick out of Alabama, Robinson arrived in Washington as a potential boost to a running backs room that already featured Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic. But Robinson quickly proved he could be much more through organized team activities and training camp. Before his injuries, he was in line to earn time as a starter — perhaps on a rotating basis with Gibson, depending on the weekly slate.
Rivera envisioned having a dynamic set of rushers that could complement each other in skill sets and size, much like the group he had with Carolina.
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The loss of Robinson right before the season opener was a blow to the Commanders’ initial offensive plans, but they adjusted by keeping Jonathan Williams on the active roster to give them a back with a similar playing style and size. Robinson’s return creates uncertainty for Williams — Rivera did not say whether he will remain on the 53-man roster once Robinson is activated — but a boost to the offense couldn’t come at a better time.
Washington is reeling from three straight losses, including two to NFC East opponents. The offense, which impressed in Week 1, faltered in subsequent weeks and now leads the league in sacks allowed (17) and has the fewest yards per carry. games (4.61).
If there’s a bright spot, it’s been the running game, which picked up 142 yards (5.3 per carry) against the Cowboys. Robinson’s delayed debut should only help the attack.
“If we can continue to establish the run, that will help the passing game, which will slow down the pass rush, which will open up some things,” Rivera said. “If you can get the pass rushers to go sideways, it slows it down a little bit. And any time there’s the dual threat of a run pass, it plays to our advantage. We’ve got to get that. We’ve got to get better at that. “
Rivera said rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson could be out for “a week or two” after suffering a hamstring injury against the Cowboys, and multiple people with knowledge of the situation said right tackle Sam Cosmi suffered a hand injury and could also miss time. Cosmi is expected to see a doctor Tuesday to learn more.
Rivera said he feels “tremendous frustration” over the many injuries his team has suffered. Many players were sidelined during training camp and key players on both sides of the ball were still recovering when the season began.
“Losing a player of Jahan’s caliber who has done a lot of good things for you, it’s even more frustrating,” Rivera said.
Washington will also start the clock on center Tyler Larsen. He was on the physically unable to perform list because of an Achilles injury, and his return should bolster the offensive line after it lost starting center Chase Roullier (knee) and backup Wes Schweitzer (concussion) earlier this season.
Chase Young is still recovering from his ACL injury. The defensive end is technically eligible to return to practice this week and begin his 21-day activation window, but Rivera said Young needs more time and will continue to work on the sidelines of practice with trainers.
“He’s done very well, been in the right direction,” Rivera said. “… We’ll have to wait and see where he’s at after this week. But the doctors are optimistic. They’ve been pretty promising as far as their reports go. It’s just that they feel he needs a little more time. “