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Cooley returns to Redskins as Davis heads to IR

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Cooley returns to Redskins as Davis heads to IR

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) As soon as the Washington Redskins arrived home from a 27-23 loss at the New York Giants, coach Mike Shanahan phoned out-of-work tight end Chris Cooley to see whether he was fit enough to replace Robert Griffin III's top target, an injured Fred Davis.

Cooley assured Shanahan he was.

``I wasn't at home doing squats and power cleans and listening to `Rocky' music,'' Cooley said Monday on a conference call with reporters, ``but at the same time, I'm in good shape.''

That was good enough for Shanahan. Cooley passed a physical exam and signed a contract to rejoin the Redskins, who put Davis on injured reserve with a ruptured left Achilles tendon a day after he was hurt in the first quarter Sunday.

The 30-year-old Cooley was released in August; injuries limited him to eight receptions and five games last season. He is a two-time Pro Bowl pick with 428 career catches, a franchise record for a tight end, over eight years in the NFL, all with the Redskins.

``I trust Chris. If he says he's in good shape, he's in good shape,'' Shanahan said. ``So hopefully he can help us this next week.''

The Redskins (3-4) play on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-3) on Sunday, and Shanahan will be hoping to avoid the sorts of mistakes that hurt his team against NFC East rival New York and undid all the positives - which mainly were thanks to rookie quarterback Griffin.

There were the Redskins' four second-half turnovers, one fewer than the five total they had committed in 13 previous halves all season.

The seven penalties, more than twice as many as the Giants, including an illegal shift call on Davis that wiped out what would have been a 35-yard touchdown pass from Griffin to Joshua Morgan.

And, of course, the poor secondary play that has been a problem all season for Washington, perhaps never worse than on Eli Manning's 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz against planned-but-poorly-executed double coverage with less than 1 1/2 minutes left in the game. That score came less than 20 seconds after Griffin put the Redskins ahead by lofting a picture-perfect 30-yard TD toss to Santana Moss, capping a drive that featured a fourth-down escape by the man known as RG3.

``Everybody's sick about it,'' Shanahan said about the long TD from Manning to Cruz.

``It negates all the good things,'' the coach added.

Those included edges in time of possession, first downs, total net yards, and yards rushing. Griffin himself outgained the Giants on the ground, 89 yards to 64.

Already having played four of seven games without the player who was supposed to be his leading wideout, Pierre Garcon (right foot injury), Griffin now must go the rest of the season without Davis, who leads the Redskins with 24 catches and 325 yards receiving.

``Losing Fred is huge. He's a gamer,'' Griffin said. ``He will be missed.''

Davis will have surgery Tuesday and is expected to need five to six months to recover, Shanahan said.

Before adding Cooley, the Redskins were left with Niles Paul, a converted wide receiver, and Logan Paulsen at tight end. That pair has a combined nine catches for 141 yards and zero touchdowns this season.

``He knows this offense better than anybody,'' Paul said about Cooley. ``To have him back is going to have a big impact.''

Cooley has no doubt he'll be able to play next weekend, and spending time in training camp and the preseason before getting cut made him confident he's healthy.

``I was definitely OK with not playing football this year,'' Cooley said, by way of explaining why he did not pursue opportunities with other teams.

He said he's ``maintained the strength that I've had throughout most of my career'' and done running to stay in shape and is pleased it turned out that he'll get to return to the Redskins.

``It's fortunate for both of us, I think. Fortunate for me that I get a chance to play where I want to play,'' Cooley said. ``And fortunate for them that I sat here and waited. So it worked out.''

Notes: Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones announced the city will develop a site on land near the Science Museum of Virginia to host training camp for the Redskins starting next year. ... Shanahan said LB London Fletcher has a ``slight'' injury to his right hamstring and was getting treatment Monday. The team will know more Wednesday about Fletcher's possible availability against Pittsburgh. Fletcher has played in 231 consecutive games. ... Shanahan said he was ``disappointed'' in the leg-whip penalty call against tackle Tyler Polumbus on Sunday. ... Taking a shot at Brandon Banks over the player's fumbling problems, Shanahan said: ``What Banks usually does a good job of is recovering his own fumbles. He's got some experience fumbling the ball, but he always seems to get it. I told him once the opposition gets it, then he won't have those opportunities.''

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

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USA Today Sports Images

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Pre-draft workouts begin; Michigan's Moe Wagner goes 1-on-1

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chris Miller caught up with Michigan star Moe Wagner after his workout with the Wizards.

Chris and Chase Hughes also gave their impressions of the first prospects to come in for pre-draft workouts, including which guys are most likely to be Wizards. One of those prospects is a point guard and a likely first round pick. Chase and Chris explain why that's not a crazy idea, even considering the presence of John Wall on their roster.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.