- Covered the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and other media outlets since 1994
- Authored or co-authored three books on the Redskins and one on the Cleveland Browns
ASHBURN, Va. — Five weeks after being shot twice in the leg, Washington Commanders rookie running back Brian Robinson returned to where he most wanted to be: the football field.
He performed the mundane tasks, running in and around dummy bags on the ground, taking handoffs in drills and even running some scout team.
“It was a beautiful day for me,” Robinson said.
The Commanders running back practiced for the first time since being shot on Aug. 28 while going out to dinner in the District of Columbia. The police report called it a robbery or a carjacking.
Robinson remains on the non-football injury list, but now that he’s practicing the Commanders have 21 days to place him on the active roster, or keep him on NFI.
Washington coach Ron Rivera has not ruled out Robinson playing against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. But, with another game four days later, Rivera said they would be careful. They’ll see how he feels Thursday and measure his progress by using a GPS coordinator, seeing if there’s any drop off in his speed the more he practices.
“It was good to have him out there, and he looked solid,” Rivera said. “He’s got a little bit ways to go. Conditioning will be a question, that’s for sure. But his retention, his recall looked pretty good. We did some of the things that he does well. He was out there doing them. It was all promising.”
Robinson was going to be Washington’s primary running back before he was shot, allowing Antonio Gibson to be used in a more versatile role. The Commanders like Robinson’s consistency running between the tackles; he’s not as explosive as Gibson, but runs with more power.
But Wednesday wasn’t about Robinson’s traits as a player; it was about others welcoming him back. Before a passing drill, quarterbacks Carson Wentz, Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell shook his hand. Rivera stood next to him, said a few words and smiled.
Robinson has been around, in the locker room and working on a side field during practice, but being on the field in his burgundy helmet and in shoulder pads represented a major step.
“You think back for a couple weeks and what he’s been through,” Wentz said, “and it’s a lot bigger than football; it’s real life to know he’s out there running that is a total blessing. Sometimes in those moments, you have to remove yourself from football and realize how much bigger this is.”
“He’s half Wolverine or something,” said Washington running back Jonathan Williams of Robinson.
Robinson underwent surgery on his right leg after being shot; doctors told him there was no structural damage. That allowed him to recover quicker. Indeed, three weeks ago Robinson returned to the field for agility work. Two weeks ago he warmed up before a game, running pass routes. Last week the team put him through a simulated series.
For Robinson, getting shot was just another obstacle.
“I guess I’m the king of adversity,” he said. “I’ve … dealt with so much adversity in my life. This is just another situation where I just got to be stronger than what I’m up against. I’ve had my tests, just having to be away from ball, be away from the organization for a little while just to kind of get myself together. But all of that time was very much needed.”
He also needed to hear the doctor’s words shortly after surgery that he would play football again. Robinson said that caused his mind to automatically shift into his recovery and return.
Not that it was always easy.
“That was probably the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life,” Robinson said of being in the hospital. “The only thing I remember is just receiving all the love and everybody reaching out to me, just spreading the love. That was all I needed at the time. People probably didn’t know. I don’t think the crowd knows how much that meant to me.
“It’s been a long five weeks, but it’s a lot of work. We put in a lot of work over that time. I can say I did everything I needed to do over that time period to make sure I was here today.”
Robinson said he learned that he could “pretty much fight anything” he’s up against. “The one thing I’ve definitely learned about myself is that I’m definitely ambitious and I’m going to fight for anything I believe in,” Robinson said.
During his recovery, teammates say he remained upbeat whether in the locker room or the weight room. Receiver Terry McLaurin, four years older than Robinson, said his story can motivate others.
“To keep a good disposition and an upbeat mindset while you going through the storm is really hard,” McLaurin said. “It’s something I’m trying to grow though in my life so when you see someone like that younger than you who been through something I never been through to come out on the other side stronger, that’s a testimony I take from it, inspiring to not only me but to other people as well.”
Robinson was pleased with how he moved during the drills, dodging dummy bags and making cuts — running laterally and forward. On one drill, he dodged bags, had to duck under a pole and make a sharp cut at the end. After he ran one drill Wednesday, Robinson pointed to the sky — he called it a thank you to God.
“I was forced to do a few movements and cuts in that drill that I wasn’t completely confident in before walking out on the field,” Robinson said. “That just helped me gain more confidence in myself, so by the time I finished that drill I knew that I was at least where I needed to be, if not a little bit further as far as the progress I’ve made.”
Mostly, though, Robinson was just happy to be on the field again. Rivera said he brought a joy and energy to the field. Robinson also brought determination.
“My mindset’s not going to change. I expect to dominate as soon as I come back on the field,” he said. “I don’t really want to get too much into what’s in the past. I just plan on moving forward and looking for what’s ahead of us and try to help this team make some progress.”
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