Samuel missed the first three games because of a groin injury that has caused him problems since late spring. This week was the first time Samuel has practiced for three consecutive days since that time.
Washington coach Ron Rivera said Samuel would play as long as he doesn’t wake up Sunday with a sore groin after a week’s worth of work.
“We’ll sprinkle him in,” Rivera said. “There are some things he did that I really liked seeing today … It’s not like we expect him to come out and play 65 plays. That’s the thing we have to be smart about.”
Samuel’s return would provide a boost for an offense in need of big plays. Washington ranks 26th in number of plays of 10 yards or more and 27th in plays of 20 yards or longer. When Washington signed Samuel, it envisioned using him in a variety of ways — both inside and outside as a receiver plus lining him up in the backfield on occasion. All of which he did last season in Carolina.
Washington signed him to a three-year deal worth up to $34.5 million, knowing he could provide big plays but also create openings for others. Receiver Terry McLaurin has a team-high 19 catches for 231 yards and a touchdown. But no other outside receiver has provided much help. Rookie Dyami Brown has four catches for 32 yards, while Cam Sims has two for 32. Slot receiver Adam Humphries has caught 10 passes for 61 yards.
“People have to account for him whether he gets the ball or doesn’t get the ball when he’s going vertical with his speed,” Rivera said of Samuel. “There are so many things he brings to the table that will help us and can help us if we’re able to use him.”
Samuel practiced one day in early August, but after a rain day soaked the field, Washington shelved him, limiting him to agility drills on a side field. The team wanted him to build up his conditioning after he missed so much time because of the groin. He also missed 10 days while on the reserve/Covid-19 list early in training camp, adding to the team’s desire to increase his conditioning work.
On Sept. 8, Samuel participated in his first full-pad workout of the year, but a day later he tweaked the groin and Washington soon placed him on injured reserve.
“It feels great to be back,” Samuel said through a team spokesman. “I’m just excited about going forward and just being able to stay healthy.”
His teammates are as well.
“I’m really excited to see him get back up to speed and help us offensively,” said McLaurin, who played with Samuel at Ohio State. “Obviously, that’s why we brought him here. He can be a big part of our offense.”
Antonio Gibson is questionable for Sunday with a shin injury. He was limited in practice Friday, but the expectation has been that he’ll play.