Sitting out a season for the first time in his career, tight end Niles Paul couldn't have been prouder of his teammates' accomplishments, and is ready to join them for 2016.
For the entire season, tight end Niles Paul**came to Redskins Park every morning, before his teammates made their way to the locker room to prepare for practice, and began his rehab.
"I try to be here early and do my stuff and get out of here before everybody comes," Paul said as he cleaned out his locker the Monday after the team lost to the Packers in the playoffs. "I hate when people see me in a weakened state like I've been in."
Paul broke and dislocated his ankle during the Redskins' first preseason game against the Browns. It was a devastating start and end to his season, especially after signing a three-year contract just months before in the best, bulked up, physical shape of his life.
"This was my year," he yelled out teammates as he was carted off the field in August.
The consequences of the injury took a while for Paul to get used to. He had never had a serious injury that kept him out of playing an entire season. He quickly leaned on other teammates – Silas Redd Jr. Shawn Lauvao, Logan Paulsen -- that were hit with different injuries, but had the same season-long diagnosis.
"It was just a weird place for three or four months because you go from every year playing football, to over this period of time not playing at all, at home sitting down watching the games," Paul said. "So it was tough to watch that. I see my boys out there fighting and I just wanted to be out there with them."
The time off allowed Paul to heal other parts of his body that had never received the rest they needed during the season. He found other hobbies and interests to keep him busy, too. Watching his team was one of them, and his excitement seeing his teammates advance to the playoffs couldn't have made him happier.
"I'm so proud of Will Compton. I'm so proud of J-Reed. I'm so proud of everybody out there," Paul said. "They played with so much heart this season, even when things didn't looks so good, we fought through it and hopefully we can build off of that to next year."
Specifically, Paul relished in Reed's breakout season (recording the team record for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end), one Paul said he called before training camp even began.
"I knew it was going to happen," Paul said. "With Logan down and I was down, J-Reed put it on himself to step up and he did this year. In my opinion, he had a Pro Bowl year."
Paul said he's currently jogging at 80 percent on an anti-gravity treadmill and will make the switch to regular treadmill soon. He'll see his doctor again soon and is excited about his progression.
He expects to be back for OTAs and, after losing about 25 pounds in his rehab, will start his focus on bulking back up again.
"I got next year," he said. "So I'm excited about that."