News & Notes: Brandon Banks, John Beck, Keyaron Fox And The Loss Of A Friend
By ZAC BOYER | firstname.lastname@example.org
ASHBURN — Brandon Banks, who missed much of the first week with a bruised left knee, returned to practice Monday and was playing without restriction, including returning punts.
“I mean, it’s still a little sore, but I’m just trying to get back in football shape,” the receiver said. “[It’s] probably not quite all the way, but I’m getting there.”
Banks was the Redskins’ primary punt returner last year and brought back 38 punts for an average of 11.3 yards. He had just two catches on the season for 10 yards.
“You watch him as a wide receiver and in some of the one-on-one drills, and he wasn’t favoring anything,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “That’s a big plus.”
- Quarterback John Beck didn’t participate in any of the organized team scrimmages or 7-on-7 drills Monday because of concerns about his injured groin. Beck tweaked the muscle when running to the field for the walkthrough Saturday before the team’s official practice.
Shanahan said Beck, in the mix to start, wasn’t put in the scrimmage because they didn’t want him to be put in any situation where he needed to roll out, scramble or otherwise cause himself further injury. The coaching staff is uncertain as to whether he’ll be fully able to play in Friday’s preseason opener against Pittsburgh at FedExField.
“We’ll evaluate him every day and we’ll do what he’s capable of doing,” Shanahan said. “If he can’t roll out, chances are he won’t play. Rex Grossman, the other competitor, saw a significant number of snaps Monday, with undrafted free agents Ben Chappell and Marc Verica, of Virginia, also seeing extra time.
Kellen Clemens, the other quarterback in camp with the Redskins, was not in attendance because he was at a funeral.
- Injuries are piling up already at Redskins Park, though nothing is particularly serious. Tight end Chris Cooley was limited again at practice after having fluid drained from his left knee late last week. Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who went down late in Saturday’s scrimmage, was held out of Monday’s practice because of an injured left hamstring. Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly, who has a bruised left foot, will likely miss another week, and offensive lineman Clint Oldenburg was again out of the scrimmages as the result of an illness.
- Related to injuries, Shanahan was asked about the importance of live tackling during training camp, which the Redskins have not done to date. The point was that without actually willingly, purposely bringing someone down, players may be rusty.
“I’ve done it, and I had goal-line [drills] I think three years in a row, a five-minute period, and I lost one guy each time we had live tackling in all three years for the season,” Shanahan said. “It took me four years to figure this out, so in the fourth year, I didn’t do it, and we didn’t get anyone hurt. The chances of somebody getting hurt like that doesn’t happen very often, but you kind of go through your past experiences, do what you think is best for your football team, try to get them ready for your first game and still evaluate your players – especially some of the young players you haven’t had a chance to [evaluate].”
- The prime recipient of Cooley’s lack of playing time has been Fred Davis, the fourth-year tight end from USC. Davis has, by all accounts, gotten himself much more prepared for this season. “Fred’s been doing an excellent job,” Shanahan said. “He’s come into camp in excellent shape. He came in at 243 [pounds]. He almost looks like a wide receiver. He’s got the type of body to carry 260, but he’s even better at the weight he’s currently at. He’s looking quick and elusive and he’s blocking well. He’s even more comfortable with the system in here.”
- In addition to Banks, Santana Moss, Phillip Buchanon and DeAngelo Hall were also among the players returning punts. Monday was the first day the Redskins have actually been able to punt in practice after Sav Rocca arrived from Australia on Saturday.
- Shanahan on Keyaron Fox, an inside linebacker who signed Sunday: “Fox is a guy that we had targeted a long time ago. We feel like he can help us at both inside linebacker positions. He knows the position well. He knows the terminology. He’s been the captain of special teams so he’s a guy that we were hoping could come in and compete.”
Fox played both inside linebacker positions with the second team Monday, pushing recently re-signed (and recently renamed) Horatio Blades out of a role. Blades cryptically responded to the move on his Twitter page shortly after practice ended. “Right is right wrong is wrong,” he posted. “Don’t ask people to be loyal when [you’re] not. It’s been real [D.C.], appreciate ya.”
- As for Doug Worthington, the other player the Redskins signed Sunday as more of a camp body, Shanahan was much more … obvious, I’ll say. “Worthington is a guy that, from Ohio State, we had him as a guy that we thought a lot of, and once he was on waivers, we picked him up.”
- I’ll occasionally delve into Ravens news here on the blog since there are a decent number of Ravens fans in the area, as I’ve learned (though not as much as the Patriots/Giants/Jets triangle I’m used to in Connecticut). Thus, I pass along word that The Baltimore Sun is reporting the Ravens have signed running back Ricky Williams. Imagine what could have been?
- Also worth a look is a story by the Washington Post on the flurry of moves made by the Redskins when free agency began shortly after the lockout ended on July 25.
- I lost a good friend and mentor in this business over the weekend when Dave Solomon, the sports columnist at the New Haven Register, died in a car accident on Saturday while returning home from UConn football practice. Solomon, 59, was among the nicest guys I’ve ever known and never unafraid to show a rookie the ropes, and I’ll always be thankful to him for that. Here’s a great tribute to Solomon by a former colleague, Jeff Jacobs of the Hartford Courant, and another by John Altavilla, a great wordsmith in his own right. The editor at the New Haven Register, Sean Barker, also showed his respects. Having moved here a week ago, the timing has been tough and the news is certainly devastating. Take care up there, Dave.