When the Washington Football Team signed Curtis Samuel to a three-year $34.5 million contract in March, it was met with widespread praise.
Samuel was coming off a career year, finishing the 2020 season with 77 receptions for 851 yards, three receiving touchdowns, and, to top it off, 200 rushing yards with two rushing touchdowns.
Not to mention, his biggest game of the season came in Week 16 against the Football Team, when he had over 12% of his season’s receiving yards and 25% of his season’s rushing yards.
I mean, just look at those highlights. How could Washington not be impressed?
The Football Team has had awful luck signing WRs in free agency.
But, Curtis Samuel’s lingering injury has halted some of that excitement.
Since entering the league in 2017, Samuel has only played a full season one time, missing time with a variety of ailments including a hamstring strain, a broken ligament in his ankle, a back issue, and a knee sprain.
In early June, Samuel tweaked his groin and missed mandatory minicamp. After a three month absence, he returned to practice on Monday and showed off some of what had Washington fans so excited about his potential.
After practice, Samuel talked about the challenges of missing out on practice and the trickiness regarding his injury.
"“It was definitely tough because you want to be out there getting those reps with those guys…But I just got to make sure I’m healthy first, because if I come back and I’m not feeling great, I’m just going to have another setback later on down the road,” Samuel told reporters."
Unfortunately for Washington, that setback looked to have occurred two days later at practice, where it looked like Samuel reaggravated his groin injury.
After that play, Samuel worked out individually on the sidelines and was listed as a non-participant at practice. RonRivera didn’t seem worried and said they would monitor Samuel and “see how he is [Thursday] morning.”
Thursday’s practice came and went and Samuel was again a non-participant. With a few days left until its game against the Chargers, Washington needs to decide if Samuel should be put on the short-term injured reserve list.
After speaking with Dr. Robert Volk, an orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine at The Centers for Advanced Orthopeadics and a previous team physician for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins, that might not be such a bad idea.
"“The best way to resolve a lingering injury of the groin is to allow adequate rest and healing time,” said Volk. “A ‘groin injury’ most commonly refers to a strain of the adductor muscles of the inner thigh. These muscles run from the pelvis to the thigh bone (femur) and are essential in stabilizing the body during dynamic lateral movements.”“An elite athlete like Curtis Samuel, whose position regularly requires these types of movements in order to perform at the highest level, predisposes him to further injury if he is not fully recovered. Like a hamstring injury, groin injuries can be ‘nagging’ injuries that continue to bother high level athletes due to the amount of demand these athletes put on their bodies.”"
This hasn’t been the first time Washington has had a tough decision to make after signing a free-agent wide receiver.
In 2017, the team signed Terrelle Pryor to a one-year $8 million deal coming off a career year with the Browns where he finished with 77 receptions for 1007 yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Pryor ended up only playing in nine games before opting to have ankle surgery for an injury he had been dealing with since Week 2. Jamison Crowder stepped up in his absence, with 34 receptions, 441 yards, and three touchdowns in the seven games that Pryor missed.
In 2018, the team again brought in a receiver coming off a career year, signing Paul Richardson to a five-year $40 million contract. Richardson had finished the previous season with 44 receptions for 703 yards and six touchdowns with the Seahawks.
He only made it through two years of his contract with Washington, playing in only 10 games over two seasons. He was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury in 2018 and then again in 2019 with a nagging hamstring injury.
His two years with Washington were very unmemorable with Richardson finishing with 48 receptions for 507 yards and four touchdowns over two seasons.
In 2019, Washington was able to fill the gap with three rookies in Terry McLaurin, who finished with 58 receptions for 919 yards and seven touchdowns, Kelvin Harmon, who finished with 30 receptions for 365 yards, and Steven Sims who had 34 receptions for 310 yards and four touchdowns.
Hopefully, Samuel’s Washington career fares much better than Pryor’s and Richardson’s, but his injury does provide an opportunity for other receivers to step up, just as they had in 2017 and 2019.
Somehow, the narrative worsened on Friday. You know what we were saying about it being in Samuel’s best interest to be placed on injured reserve? Well, Rivera made that official while addressing the media.
It’s not surprising, but it’s still a gut-punch.
The silver lining? Rivera isn’t in the group of those that are worried about Samuel missing time. The second-year HC expressed the utmost confidence in Washington’s deep WR corps to fill the gaps in Samuel’s absence.
"“You feel really good about who Cam Sims is, without a doubt in my mind and Terry [McLaurin] is as solid as it gets…You got Adam [Humphries] with his experience and you feel very comfortable in that. And, obviously, Dyami [Brown] is a guy that can run and he’s a big play waiting to happen,” Rivera said.“And then we got a couple other young guys in DeAndre [Carter], who’s shown something for us that we really like a lot, and I think Dax [Milne] is a young man that has an opportunity to step up and be productive for us as well.”You know, if Curtis plays great, and if he doesn’t, great, because, we got a lot of confidence in the other guys."
Washington has an extensive history of signing WR busts in free agency. Let’s hope this is just a bump in the road for Samuel and these three weeks are the time he needs to get back to full strength.
This article was updated after Curtis Samuel was placed on the short-term injured reserve list on Friday.