For Redskins safety Montae Nicholson, an offseason fully healthy with his teammates is what he believes will be the foundation for a successful second season.
While Montae Nicholson's rookie year began with him still recovering from a torn labrum suffered in his final season at Michigan State and ended with a stint on Injured Reserve, what the safety showed when healthy has given the coaching staff reason to believe he'll be an impact player for years to come.
"Montae I think is really an important piece," said Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden at February's NFL Combine. "Very similar to the way Jordan Reed is on [offense], Montae is on defense. He can cover so much ground. He makes all the defensive backs a little bit more comfortable and take a little bit more chances because he's back there roaming.
"We need him back there. We have got to get him through the shoulders and obviously the other issues that he's had."
Nicholson said Gruden's comments give him motivation for the upcoming season.
"It gives me a lot of motivation, not just from Coach Gruden, it's from Coach Greg [Manusky], Coach [James] Rowe and even D.J. [Swearinger]," Nicholson told Redskins.com. "Older guys, they want me out there with them making those plays, being out there celebrating and having that fun that we all want to have."
In eight games with six starts during his debut campaign for Washington, Nicholson recorded 24 tackles (six solo) to go along with two passes defensed and one interception.
That interception, which came in the first quarter of a blowout victory over the Oakland Raiders, made Nicholson just the sixth Redskins player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to record an interception prior to turning 22 years old, joining the likes of Champ Bailey and Sean Taylor amongst others.
Nicholson also played a big role in Washington's Week 6 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, as he recorded a season-high six tackles along with a pass defensed.
But Nicholson would continue to deal with shoulder injury and a concussion later in the season before being placed on Injured Reserve in December.
While it certainly wasn't the way the 6-foot-2, 216 pounder wanted to end his season, he's put it behind him.
"It feels amazing, especially because I didn't get to finish the second half of the season," Nicholson said of being back at team headquarters for offseason workouts. "Just being back with the guys, words can't even describe it. Even though we're not on the field yet just working out, we're just building that camaraderie and getting back together."
Nicholson added that he feels like he's 100 percent again.
"I feel like I am back to normal, I'm working out well, things are going great," Nicholson said. "Hopefully we can keep it that way."
Additionally, the young safety believes that an entire offseason being healthy and on the field will benefit his production over his second season.
"Man, I just feel relieved, not only because I can lift, but I can be lifting with my teammates, my guys, building that camaraderie because it's hard to just sit on the sidelines just watching it and I couldn't really do anything," Nicholson said. "The fact that I can means a lot to me."