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Antonio Gibson looking 'spry' in return to team drills

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The Washington Commanders' running backs are always doing something out of the ordinary for individual drills. Anything can happen on the field, so running backs coach Randy Jordan wants his sessions to be just as unpredictable. 

Monday's drills involved hurdles, bags and a football helmet attached to pole. 

"Just be ready to adjust," Antonio Gibson said with a smile after practice. 

Gibson was first in line for the drill. He maneuvered through the network of bags and hurdles, and as assistant running backs coach Jennifer King moved the helmet towards his leg, he finished things off by leaping over the obstacle with ease. 

It was a positive sign for Gibson, who has steadily been increasing his workload over the past few practices. Monday's practice represented another step forward; he participated in 11-on-11 and 9-on-9 drills for the first time. With the pads coming on Tuesday, things are looking up for the third-year back. 

"I feel great," Gibson told reporters. "Finally good to be back. I felt great. Just worked my way into it."

The media and fans in attendance at The Park haven't seen much of Gibson on the main since camp began. Up until Saturday, which was the first time he participated in individual drills, he was found on the side field rehabbing, and any time he spent with the offense was on the sideline without his helmet.

The lack of action was the first step in Ron Rivera and the team's "ramp up" process for Gibson, which was done out of "an abundance of caution."

"We're not gonna throw him out right away and have something happen. We wanna make sure there's nothing lingering."

It makes sense that Rivera wants to be careful with Gibson, considering how important he has been to the offense since he was drafted as a third-round pick in 2020. He's averaged nearly 1,200 total yards in the past two seasons, and he's the first Washington player to have back-to-back double-digit touchdown campaigns since Alfred Morris.

The "ramp up" process seems to have worked, because Rivera said Gibson did a "very nice job" with Monday workload.

"He did the four days of the ramp up with a specific plan and today he came out and he looked pretty spry," Rivera said.

The Commanders can thank Gibson's decision to report to camp about 10 pounds lighter for that. Gibson hasn't had any major injuries, but he has experienced a few nicks that have held him back. He already feels the difference, and his goal is to play his third season injury free.

It does also help boost his quickness a bit.

"You get in and out of cuts quicker, you can go to distance," Gibson said.

Quickness is what Rivera and the Commanders' offensive coaches have in mind for Gibson, who will be more of a "slasher" to work with third-round pick Brian Robinson’s physical style. The work Gibson put in to lose weight during the offseason, Rivera said, gives him an advantage.

"If you come in heavy, it takes a little bit longer to get in shape. Coming in fit like he is, that transition has been really good."

Gibson's next test will be fully padded practices, which begin on Tuesday. He was running with confidence during team drills, though, which has been the biggest difference about his skill set as he enters Year 3.

"I feel like I got the reps that I needed these past two years," Gibson said. "I made the mistakes that I have made and I learned from them. I just feel confident going there. I'm relaxed out there. I know what I'm doing. So it feels good. Feels real good."

The work isn't done for Gibson as the Commanders begin Week 2 of training camp. Washington wants to make sure he's healthy going into Week 1 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, so there are plenty of steps to go between now and September.

Still, it's a plus to see that things are headed in the right direction.

"We had a very specific plan as far as Antonio is concerned," Rivera said. "The biggest point as far as that is concerned is sticking to it as much as we can."

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