Meadville Tribune

Sports

August 18, 2013

Rookies look to shine in preseason

WASHINGTON — In his NFL debut performance, Washington Redskins rookie tight end Jordan Reed went 0 for 3.

He’s lucky he still has his hair.

This wasn’t from the Redskins’ preseason opener — Reed missed that game with a sprained right foot — but the skits rookies have to perform for the veterans during training camp.

First, Reed was supposed to supply the beat while some fellow rookies rapped.

“I chickened out and I didn’t do the beat, so they booed me off the stage,” Reed said. “I froze up.”

Given another chance, he was told to perform what he called a “silly dance,” but the stage-shy Reed didn’t come through again. He was going to play a video on his third try, but the machine didn’t work.

“All three times I got booed,” Reed said. “So now it’s grown to them cutting my hair off.”

By the end of last week, Reed’s scalp remained untouched — “He’s got nice hair, so I felt like it was a little too harsh,” offensive captain Trent Williams said. The third-round pick from Florida was able to refocus his attention on the larger task at hand for rookies league-wide: making a good first impression in an NFL game, even if it’s a preseason one.

Reed’s foot is fine, and he should be ready to go Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Just working hard all training camp makes me feel like I deserve to play well in the game,” Reed said. “And having that mindset, I think I will play well.”

It seems rookies are about the only NFL players who get regularly excited about the preseason anymore. The Steelers and Redskins have their usual crop of draftees, some of whom are expected to contribute right away, and it’s important to see how they perform in a setting outside of training camp.

Assuming they’re healthy.

Pittsburgh first-rounder Jarvis Jones, who is trying to push Jason Worilds for a starting job at linebacker, had a promising debut in the Steelers’ preseason opener, recovering a fumble and blowing up a screen pass with a one-handed tackle against the New York Giants.

But second-round pick Le’Veon Bell missed the game with a sore left knee and aggravated the injury in practice last week. The running back from Michigan State is pegged to succeed the departed Rashard Mendenhall, but that’s hard to do when not in uniform. It’s uncertain whether he’ll play today.

“It’s not as bad as it was,” Bell said. “It just took me back a little bit. I’ll be able to work through it and hopefully get on the field.”

Washington’s top pick is second-round cornerback David Amerson, but sixth-round safety Bacarri Rambo has made the major breakthrough, impressing coaches enough to work with the starters throughout camp. His progress is even more vital now that another Redskins rookie safety, fourth-round pick Phillip Thomas, is out for the year with a foot injury.

Redskins fans will also be intrigued to see if Robert Griffin III suits up again, even though coach Mike Shanahan has decreed that the quarterback won’t play during the preseason while recovering from major knee surgery.

Griffin has been lobbying to play. He put on the full uniform for the first preseason game and said he’s “dang near close to 100 percent.” The public disagreement between Shanahan and Griffin over the pace of the quarterback’s return became the overriding story of training camp.

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