The Washington Commanders have been working with a patchwork group of tight ends for the past month, but they may not need to do that for much longer.
The Commanders announced Monday morning that starting tight end Logan Thomas was activated off the Physically Unable to Perform list after passing his physical. It is welcome news for several reasons, the most important being the possibility of Thomas being ready for Week 1 is closer to becoming a reality.
No, Thomas was not a full participant in practice; and no, he will not be getting any snaps during the Commanders' final preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. It's still significant progress for the tight end, and the next steps for him are all about getting back into action on the field and building a relationship with his new quarterback.
"For me, it's just now getting back, integrating contact into my daily routine and getting used to it," Thomas said. "Building from where I've been."
The individual drills Thomas participated in might not seem like much, but it's a long way from where he started his recovery journey. He could hardly do anything in the month immediately after injuring his knee against the Las Vegas Raiders last December. Most of his initial rehabilitation involved stretching to regain some range of motion and avoid swelling.
As the months wore on, his focus turned to strengthening his quad, working on his balance and being able to put more weight on his joints. The work has paid off, as his force plate numbers, which measure whether a player is favoring the right or left sides of their bodies during jumps, are better than they were at this time last year.
"Obviously, [we were] expecting to be deficiencies on the left, but my power output was higher," Thomas said. "I was favoring my left more than I was my right, which is the knee I injured. That kind of just told everybody it was time to roll, and I was surprised, but shoot, I'll take it."
Thomas did not participate in team drills, but he showed much of the same intensity he put on display before the injury. Players were in jerseys and helmets for the day, so there's was not much contact. Thomas did have a good amount of explosion during blocking drills, during which the players started the exercise already engaged with each other.
Being on the field was not just a sign of Thomas's physical progress; it also provided some mental encouragement.
"You could feel yourself getting closer and closer to the finish line, but it's just like every day starts feeling like a monotonous grind. So, to change it up and have something different was definitely a little boost."
So, Thomas can check off that box. The next goal is to be cleared for full contact in practice, although it is unclear as to when that will be. The trainers and weight staff are watching him closely and evaluating his progress every day. He would be surprised if it lasted much longer, he said, but he is putting his trust in the staff to make that call.
In the meantime, Thomas wants to start getting used to Carson Wentz’s throwing style, which is different and quicker than the other quarterbacks he's caught passes from in the past. They spent some time together during special teams drills. Chemistry takes time to build, but things are off to a good start.
"[We] Got on the same page and the body communication was really good," Thomas said.
In fact, that is a big part of what Ron Rivera wants Thomas to work on between now and whenever he returns to the field in full capacity. He does not need to see preseason reps from the two; it is just going to involve "a lot of work."
"Right now, it's all about positional drills, individual drills, and then eventually the next step will be obviously running and catching the ball," Rivera said. "But as soon as we can, it'll be great. But again, we're not going to force anybody out there early."
Whether Thomas will be ready for Week 1 was one of the biggest questions at the start of training camp, and it is still a question even with the positive news. Washington will need to wait a bit longer for that answer, but the likelihood of him suiting up against the Jacksonville Jaguars is stronger than it has been.
And that's really all that matters right now.
"Obviously, as a competitor, yeah, I'd love to be out there week one, but I know myself," Thomas said. "If I'm not ready to go or I don't feel like a full version of myself, then we can buy another week or another two weeks. Games are ultra-meaningful, whether they're early in the season or late in the season. So, I'd love to be out there."