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With Montae Nicholson clear of assault charges, is he the Redskins answer at free safety?

With Montae Nicholson clear of assault charges, is he the Redskins answer at free safety?

Redskins safety Montae Nicholson dealt with a rough 2018 season. After a promising rookie campaign in 2017, plenty of folks expected Nicholson to be a breakout star in 2018.

It didn't happen. 

Paired with D.J. Swearinger in the Washington secondary, Nicholson did not show the same burst and play-making ability as his rookie year. Eventually, the team traded for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, which sent Nicholson to the bench. Then in late December, Nicholson was arrested in Loudon County on assault charges. 

Add all that up, and it wasn't clear what Nicholson's role would be in 2019. Well, the third-year pro out of Michigan State got some good news on Tuesday when reports showed that the misdemeanor assault charges brought against him had been dropped for a lack of evidence.

The Redskins spent big money to bring in former Giants Pro Bowl safety Landon Collins this offseason. He will help the Washington defense immediately, particularly in the run game. Collins, however, needs a speedster lined up next to him, a role which Nicholson could be a great fit. 

In college, Nicholson ran track. At the NFL Scouting Combine two years ago, he ran a 4.42 40-yard dash. Nicholson has speed and can cover ground fast, he proved that as a rookie. 

The situation with Nicholson seems a bit more complicated though. Last season, the Redskins stopped using their safeties in strong and free situations and started to just play them on the left or right side of the field. The goal was to not allow the offenses to know which player had which responsibilities. At times, it seemed to work, but at times, there was confusion. 

Collins is a natural leader, and on an overhauled defense, whatever happened in 2018 will be in the past. The Redskins could have two new inside linebackers starting this fall, along with Collins, and likely rookie Montez Sweat. Things will look different, and that could help Nicholson. A fresh start so to speak. 

As a rookie in 2017, Nicholson was often available to the media and seen as a fun part of the secondary group. A November concussion changed that, understandably, and Nicholson finished his rookie season on the injured reserve. His second season started with promise but went sideways, and from the surface, the safety never seemed as comfortable as he had early in his rookie season. Taking part in the festivities at the Ryan Kerrigan Golf Tournament on Monday, Nicholson was seen laughing and talking with Redskins teammates and coaches. That could mean nothing, but it seemed reminiscent of Nicholson in his rookie season. 

Since the big money got spent on Collins, Redskins fans have lamented what would happen at the safety spot opposite the 2016 All Pro safety. The team, however, never seemed too worried.

Much of that has to be a belief in Nicholson getting back to what he showed as a rookie. 

Pro Football Focus graded Nicholson as a +1.3 in 2017, strong for a first-year player. In 2018, that number dropped dramatically to a -8.9. PFF isn't gospel, but it can be a useful metric to consider play from year to year. 

At this point, the only thing that appears clear is that Nicholson is free from legal trouble stemming from the December incident. What, if any, punishment comes from the NFL or the Redskins remains to be seen, though Washington already suspended him late last season. Asked for comment on Nicholson, the Redskins declined. 

What's also clear? The Redskins need a free safety to pair with Landon Collins and did not draft anybody for that role. 

Maybe the Ashburn brass is banking on Nicholson returning to the level of play he showed as a rookie. It's a low-cost gamble that might just pay off. 

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Roger Goodell releases statement condemning racism, admits NFL was wrong not listening to players

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Roger Goodell releases statement condemning racism, admits NFL was wrong not listening to players

Over the past couple of weeks, several athletes and many others have made their voices heard on the racial injustices in America following the death of George Floyd.  A number of NFL stars released a joint video statement late Thursday evening, requesting the league to speak up more on the matter.

The NFL had previously released a statement last Saturday expressing condolences to the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, but it didn't speak on the racism that black Americans are constantly faced with.

On Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a strong response to his players, condemning racism and admitting the league was wrong in not listening to its players earlier.

"We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people," Goodell said. "We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest."

Below is a transcript of Goodell's entire statement:

It has been a difficult time in our country, in particular, black people in our country. First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families that have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you and want to be a part of the much needed change in this country. Without black players there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality, and oppression of black players, coaches, fans, and staff. We are listening, I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices, and others on how we can move forward together for a better and more united NFL family.

These issues were first brought to the NFL forefront in 2016, when ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled for the national anthem as a way to peacefully protest and raise awareness for racial injustice in America. Kaepernick has not played a snap since he parted ways with the 49ers following that season.

Redskins running back Adrian Peterson said Friday that he, along with many of his peers, plan to kneel for the anthem when the season returns this fall.

Goodell's statement, which directly addressed police brutality and racial injustices in America, is a sign the NFL is moving in the right direction regarding these issues.

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WATCH: Ron Rivera returns to Redskins Park for first time since March

WATCH: Ron Rivera returns to Redskins Park for first time since March

For the first time in over 11 weeks, head coach Ron Rivera and several members of the coaching staff returned to Redskins Park on Friday.

The Redskins' video crew documented the staff's return to the Ashburn facilities, as the team had several safety precautions in place for the coaches when they arrived.

In the video, you can see Rivera and several staff members go through a temperature check, making sure each one of them was healthy enough to report. There video also showed there are plenty of hand sanitizer stations throughout the lobby of the facility, too.

Additionally, everyone shown in the video was wearing a mask, including a pretty sweet custom one for the head coach.

Rivera's mask featured the head coach's signature 'Riverboat Ron' logo, which is also his profile picture on Twitter.

Friday marked the first time in almost three months that Rivera was allowed to report to the Redskins facilities, as the league sent out a memo to all 32 clubs on March 19 that all facilities must close due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The NFL announced on May 19 that teams were allowed to reopen facilities should state and local regulations allow it, but head coaches were not permitted. Earlier this week, the league finally allowed head coaches to return as early as Friday. 

The league has yet to announce a date when players are allowed to return to team facilities. As it stands now, only those players who are injured or undergoing medical treatment are allowed in the building.

As Rivera returned to work, he explained he only has one thing in mind as he plans for the few months ahead.

"The biggest thing is starting to get everything set for training camp," Rivera said. "We have everything ready just in case we get the opportunity for some work with the players before the end of OTAs and minicamp, but the biggest thing we can do now is start to get ready for training camp."

When Redskins training camp will begin has not formally been announced yet, but the team's annual fall camp is expected to begin at some point towards the end of July. Washington will not be traveling to their typical Richmond location, as the NFL announced earlier this week that all training camp activities will be held at each team's respective facilities.

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