Back on the field for OTAs, Washington Redskins linebacker Junior Galette is seeking to regain his burst and elite pass rush skills following two season-ending Achilles tears.
As OTAs began last week for the Washington Redskins, many players started to step up their performances including outside linebacker Junior Galette, who claims he hasn't lost his step after two torn Achilles.
Galette looked primed for a healthy bounce back performance, as he participated in all forms of practice sessions ranging from agility drills to 11-on-11 unit action.
In limited reps with the first- and second-team defensive units, there were flashes of the former double-digit sack man. He used good leverage and range to attack blockers and made some key stops at the line scrimmage including a read and react play where he contained the edge as the runner bounced in outside and had a what would have been a sack on Trent Williams after beating the blocker to the inside with a swim move.
"Hopefully at this level, at this profession you really care about your craft," Galette told Redskins.com. "You don't want to go out there and think you won't be as good as your old self. Once I was out there I realized this thing is still easy to me. By that I was just really humbled by the fact that I really have just as must juice as I had before I tore my Achilles. A lot of people are like, 'He tore his Achilles, he don't have it anymore.' No, that is not the case."
Heading into his third season with the Redskins, Galette has yet to see the field in any game action after suffering an Achilles tear in two consecutive offseasons including last year's that took place the week training camp was beginning.
Galette understands that this time around he has to have a different approach when it comes to his preparation for the regular season, but doesn't want the thought of his previous injuries cloud his mind.
"I took the workload off a bit," Galette said. "But you have to remind yourself that you are what, one of 1,700 in the world? There is a reason that we tend to heal much faster so of course you don't want to go in there and say, 'Man I'm starting to think about that moment when I tore it.' It's in the back of your mind. I've been doing all the work with the team so it kind of went out the window when it comes to thinking about it."
That defense Galette has watched over the past few years has seen its struggles but has been quickly revamped this offseason through both the draft and free agency. Galette admits OTAs are a little too early to tell how good the defense can be and that it doesn't matter how they look on paper. Everybody needs to work hard for each other.
Look at photos of the Redskins new Defensive Coordinator Greg Manusky.
"Well it's hard to say right now, I've been on many defenses where we look good on paper but we turn out to be just not quite the hype," Galette said. "It doesn't matter on paper, we've got to go out there and work hard for each other and really care about our jobs and our assignments. It starts off the field first, you've got to really get in your playbook and everybody do their one-eleventh…You see on paper the guys we have just in the linebacker room alone is phenomenal."
The outside linebackers corps from last year is one area of the defense that stayed mostly intact throughout all the changes this offseason. The group finished with 26 of the team's 38 sacks registered by the defense under the guidance of Greg Manusky.
The newly appointed defensive coordinator is a prime reason for Galette's excitement to get back on the field, not only because Manusky's track record for being a part of defensive staffs with high sack totals, but he was also someone who helped the Stillman College product through the tough times dealing with injuries.
"I'm more thrilled that he was part of that 2013 coaching staff with the Colts when Robert Mathis had 19.5 sacks," Galette said. "That defense they were the best for me, they were kicking tail all year. I'm really thankful to have him as defensive coordinator because throughout my injury he was definitely one of the guys that consistently stayed in touch with me and checked up on me at least two or three times a week. I'm at the deep end right now, a dark place in my life and he would always bring my spirits up every time that I see him text or I get a call from him.
"He would say, 'Hey you're the guy, you're still my guy and don't worry about it.' Really, his encouragement was phenomenal. Having somebody in the facility that's as important as he is to continue to have that relationship with a player that has never played for him. He has just seen me on film and I'm really thankful to have that."
Check out behind the scenes images from Linebacker, Junior Galette's 2016 Redskins Photo Shoot.
While many outside of the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va., may have forgotten about Galette and what he can bring to this team, he has actually gained confidence after coming back from another serious injury and is here to prove to his teammates as well as himself that he can be at the level he once was when he recorded 22 sacks in his final two seasons with the New Orleans Saints.
"My colleagues want to see me succeed and be at that level again," Galette said. "It's not like I have lost confidence at all. I've gained confidence because I feel like I have so much more to prove, not to the media but to myself and my colleagues. Just to give somebody the faith that even with having two devastating injuries, you can still come back and perform at a top-tier level."
With the additions of Ryan Anderson and a healthy Galette, the Redskins' defense will have a plethora of pass rushers to rotate and with the loss of Trent Murphy (nine sacks in 2016) for the four games of the year. Galette is hoping that the opportunity to see the field more during those first four games will allow him to get back into form, but he doesn't have specific expectations for himself other than seeing the field once again.
"When it comes to numbers, that's for myself," Galette said. There are personal goals that I write in mind. My goal obviously is to say that I want to play a full 16-game season and I feel if I can do that. I'll be up there with the best of them when it's all said and done. I have to really take it one day at a time and one game at a time. Right now I am just focusing on getting better and get in even better shape."