Martrell Spaight had a pretty good 2015 for the first eight and a half months of the year. The former Arkansas linebacker was drafted in the fifth round by the Redskins. He had a solid offseason and training camp, made the 53-man roster, and played in the season opener.
But in Week 3 he was placed on injured reserve due to a concussion and all he could do after he recovered, a process that he said took about a month, was work out and attend meetings.
Things didn’t get a whole lot better for the inside linebacker after the calendar turned to 2016. The Redskins re-signed Mason Foster, who was signed after Spaight went to IR. As expected, Will Compton was retained as an exclusive-rights free agent. They brought in Terence Garvin as a free agent. Both Perry Riley and Adam Hayward were retained despite talk that they might become salary cap casualties. Finally, Washington drafted inside linebacker Steven Daniels in the seventh round.
Spaight will face a lot of competition when it comes to making the roster and, if he does, in fighting for position on the depth chart. He is taking nothing for granted after what he calls his “redshirt year.” He sees OTAs as a critical time for him.
“I feel like it’s make or break for me, coming out here, just trying to get better day by day, just learning and trying to be a great linebacker,” he said after one of last week’s OTA sessions. “Every day I come out there, every rep I take has got to be precise, it’s got to be perfect.”
At this point, he is putting any thoughts of long-term issues that could be caused by concussions aside.
“Every athlete knows the consequences of playing this sport,” he said. “It’s just what we choose to do, what we love to do . . . If it happens, it happens. You’ve just got to make the choice on what you want to do.”
Still, it was a difficult season for Spaight. “It’s tough, it’s real tough,” he said when asked about sitting out last year. “You really want to be out there playing as a rookie and going through. I was just sitting at home watching the game on TV, I wanted to play.”
The Redskins will probably keep five inside linebackers. Right now it looks like Foster, Compton, and Riley are locks to make it. That leaves Spaight competing with Daniels, Hayward, and Garvin for two spots. Spaight and the others will be sweating it out right up until the final cuts are in on September 3.