Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leonard Hankerson Aware Of Redskins’ Expectations For Second Season
ASHBURN – Leonard Hankerson’s routine over the past six weeks hasn’t been too kind.
He’ll wake up early enough to be at the Washington Redskins’ facility by 7:30 a.m., first preparing for the next step in his rehabilitation from hip surgery before joining the rest of his teammates in meetings.
The receiver will stretch, run, lift weights – whatever is in his plan for that day. Then the hard part begins. As his teammates grab their helmets and run onto the field for drill work, Hankerson dons a ballcap and struts down the sidelines, often dropping to a knee to keep an eye on everything he can’t do.
“I mean, of course I miss being out there, you know?” Hankerson said Thursday, not long after walking off the fields at Redskins Park by himself. “That’s what I do. Of course I want to be out there with those guys, but obviously, I can’t. I’m just doing the things I can do right now in the rehab process.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Hankerson didn’t have the most fluid rookie season, one in which he played only four games, and his first offseason has been quite the struggle as well.
After the coaches expressed concerns about his route-running and his knowledge of the playbook, Hankerson, a third-round draft pick out of Miami (Fla.) last April, didn’t make his debut until Week 7 at Carolina.
It was one worth forgetting. He took the field for just one play in the third quarter, and miscommunication between Hankerson and quarterback John Beck immediately led to a broken route, an interception and a spot back on the sidelines.
But the coaches stuck with Hankerson, and in his return to hometown, the receiver delivered. He caught a team-high eight passes for 106 yards in the 20-9 loss to the Miami Dolphins – a game that ended early for him when, while laying out to catch a pass, he landed awkwardly on his right hip and tore the labrum.
The Redskins put him on injured reserve the following day, bringing a premature close to his season. The injury hurt the sociable, fast-talking Hankerson so much that he politely declined all interview requests and avoided most chatter with reporters for the rest of the season.
“I was let down then,” Hankerson said. “But I’m getting there. I’m feeling good. I’m moving around pretty good.”
Hankerson originally believed that a few weeks of rest and rehabilitation would take care of the labrum, allowing him back on the field by the start of the Redskins’ voluntary offseason workouts in mid-April. Progress was slow, however, and in late February, he elected to undergo surgery – a move that would keep him out approximately four months.
The receiver said in late March he was aiming for a mid-June return to football activities. He didn’t want to comment on a timetable last week, but head coach Mike Shanahan said the hope was that Hankerson could begin doing positional drills with his teammates this week.
“We’ve got to get him back to football shape, but he’s working extremely hard,” Shanahan said. “He’s done all we’ve asked him to do … we just don’t want to put him in there real quick. He’ll definitely be ready for the season. We just don’t want to overdo it because it will set him back.”
The Redskins are counting heavily upon Hankerson being ready for the start of this season. After acquiring Pierre Garçon and Joshua Morgan via free agency in March, Shanahan professed the future of the receiving corps in Washington lies with the two newcomers and Hankerson. Garçon is expected to be the featured receiver; Morgan and Hankerson will battle for time as the split end, though either of the two could see time in the slot.
Hankerson understands the level of expectation such a role brings, and he appreciates the coaches’ belief in him. He is trying to remain cautious, though, because he knows that if he can’t return to the team fully healthy, expectations and projections mean nothing.
“You can’t really worry too much about what people are saying,” Hankerson said. “You’ve got to go in there and put in the work, and if you put in the work, there’s no doubt about it – you’re gonna show up. For me, I just worry about getting better each and every day, and just keep putting in work, because if I put in the work, it’s gonna show.”