Curtis Samuel’s name made a regular appearance on the injury report last season to the frustrations of Washington Commanders fans and Samuel himself. This year, all signs point to him being available against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It is a stark, and welcome, contrast from what was a difficult season for the versatile wideout. After missing all of last year's training camp and making only brief appearances during the 2021 season, Samuel has been "flying around" during practice and is anxious for the Week 1 game to arrive.
"I'm just excited to play football again," Samuel told reporters on Wednesday. "It's something that I kinda had taken away from me last year, and I'm just excited to go."
Samuel's 2021 campaign was a sobering experience. He recorded six receptions for 27 yards in five games, and recovery became a constant cloud that hung over him for months. It was a reminder, Samuel said, that any game could be his last.
Samuel feels "amazing" less than four days away from the season opener, and any thoughts of his injury are far removed from his mind.
"I'm smiling, enjoying myself. It's just fun this year."
Samuel's coaches like Scott Turner, who know the kind of impact he can have on offense, are equally thrilled about his return. He has no doubts about Samuel's talent, as he saw flashes of the talent the receiver put on display with the Carolina Panthers. Having Samuel back means he has one more weapon available for Sunday.
"We've got some different stuff, moving him around [to] get the ball in his hand," Turner said. "And he'll obviously gain yards himself, but [also] open some stuff up for some other people."
There was plenty of hype surrounding Samuel when he first arrived in Washington with fans believing he was going to expand Washington's playbook. His injuries prevented him from living up to those expectations last season, but now he has an opportunity to make up for that in 2022.
"I'm excited," Samuel said, "to be back out there with those guys. I'm just ready to go."
Here are some notes from today's practice.
-- Today's injury report is the same as Wednesday's: Kamren Curl did not participate, although he was in uniform and stretched with the rest of the team. Logan Thomas, Cole Turner and Cam Sims were limited, while Phidarian Mathis, John Bates and Trai Turner were full participants.
-- Turner had plenty of praise for Jahan Dotson during his press conference, saying that the rookie has done a good job of understanding his role and how that fits into the concepts run on each play. He has fit right into the receiver group, Turner said, and he expects Dotson to have a productive season.
-- The Commanders will need to account for No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker this week, and Turner said the former Georgia Bulldog is "a very physically imposing guy that can play against both the run and the pass. He is a highly skilled player who will be a challenge for the offense, but the unit will have a plan for him and the rest of the Jaguars' restructured front.
-- Both Turner and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio commented on 2021 No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and the talent he showed as a rookie. For Turner, it did not take long for him to see that the former Clemson Tiger was going to the first player off the board, and it was clear that Lawrence was "a topnotch type of player." Del Rio called Lawrence a "big, talented quarterback" with a "big arm to make all the throws."
-- If Curl is ruled out of Sunday's game, Del Rio is confident in the depth the Commanders have at safety. Darrick Forrest is technically listed behind Curl on the unofficial depth chart, but Percy Butler and Jeremy Reaves have proven themselves as valuable rotational pieces.
-- James Smith-Williams has taken strides heading into his third season. He played defensive tackle out of necessity in 2020, but he was able to fully focus on defensive end in training camp, which was what the Commanders drafted him in the first place. "I think he's been able to sharpen his skill, in terms of things we ask him to do at the end position," Del Rio said.
Check out the updated injury report for Sunday's game, HERE.