A few hours after suffering a season-ending injury in Cleveland, Redskins tight end Niles Paul took to Twitter to express his disappointment and thank fans for their well-wishes.
“This one is a tough pill to swallow,” he wrote. “Finally got the opportunity I always wanted since I entered this league. Took me 4 years to get there & just like that, it was taken from me.”
Paul, of course, was referring to the fact that he had just earned a bigger role in this year’s offense and was listed this week on the depth chart as the Redskins’ No. 1 tight end—ahead of the talented-yet-injury-prone Jordan Reed.
Paul had worked diligently to earn the distinction. The 26-year-old, who signed a three-year contract extension in March that could be worth as much as $9.6 million, had bulked up to 252 pounds (from 238 in 2014) in an effort to become a better blocker, telling CSNWashington.com in June: “I was always a willing blocker, but I was 230-pounds going against guys who were 260, 270, 280. I just wanted to level out the playing field a little bit.”
It worked. Recently, in fact, Coach Jay Gruden called Paul the most “complete” tight end on the roster, in part because of his improved effectiveness as a blocker.
Now, though, the Nebraska product faces a lengthy rehab after suffering a fracture and dislocated left ankle in the first quarter of Thursday’s preseason opening victory.
Paul’s injury robs the locker room of one of its most respected leaders, subtracts a good special teamer from a unit that can't really afford to lose anyone and compounds the Redskins’ depth issue at the tight end position. Last week, Logan Paulsen suffered a toe injury that the team fears is season-ending, a source told CSNWashington.com on Thursday, and Reed is battling a hamstring injury that sidelined him against the Browns. The three healthy tight ends on the roster--Je'Ron Hamm, Chase Dixon and Devin Mahina--have no regular season experience, meaning it's possible, if not likely, that GM Scot McCloughan will look to bolster the unit's depth.
Indeed, this was shaping up to be Paul’s year to take the ball and run with it—literally. Which is another reason he was so emotional as he got carted off the field at FirstEnergy Stadium.
“Life can be cruel sometimes,” Paul wrote. “Thank you for all your well wishes & prayers. They are very much appreciated.”