While he only got a very small sampling of regular season NFL action, Martrell Spaight is healthy and using his time away to get stronger all while learning the schematics of Joe Barry's defense.
Martrell Spaight was feeling the pregame jitters before the Washington Redskins faced the Dallas Cowboys Dec. 7 on Monday Night Football.
As his teammates were lining up to perform one final set of individual and unit drills, fully padded and ready for action, Spaight was on the sideline in street clothes.
That's been life in a nutshell for Spaight over the last few months after he was placed on season-ending Injured Reserve following a concussion suffered on Opening Day against the Miami Dolphins.
"I went to the Cowboys game and I just think to myself that I feel like I'm out there on the field," Spaight told Redskins.com. "My heart jumping and the anticipation and everything is running through my veins. So I'm definitely counting down the days and trying to maximize everyday as much as possible."
Spaight's rookie season ended before really taking off, as he recorded just nine snaps – all on special teams – before being diagnosed with a concussion.
"At the moment it just felt like things weren't clearing up," Spaight said. "I was wanting to play and there was all these things kind of coming at once. So I think it kind of played a role in hindering my recovery, but I've been good for a couple of weeks now. Since the time, I've just been preparing myself."
The symptoms were severe enough that the team decided to place him on IR, preserving Spaight for the future.
"I think there's more awareness obviously," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said of concussions. "With more awareness comes… it is more strict. I think that everybody involved – trainers, doctors and the independent people – are aware of the importance of taking time with these injuries and making sure the players are fully recovered. That's what we're doing with Spaight."
Check out images of rookie linebacker Martrell Spaight during his first few months with the Washington Redskins.
While it has certainly been difficult for Spaight to not be able to participate in games, the 2015 fifth-round pick has said that, in a way, the injury was "a blessing in disguise."
"I was able to play through all the preseason games plus a regular season game," Spaight said. "So I got a feel for the physicality of the game and I know how to prepare my body and know what I need to work at the most to make sure that I'm an elite athlete at my position. I think I know the way I need to head now, which is putting more weight on my body and getting faster, stronger, and quicker. Just knowing the scheme inside and out."
Spaight – listed at 236 pounds on the team roster – said he wants to beef up to at least 240 pounds to be able to better absorb the physicality that comes with being an inside linebacker at the professional level.
"[I also] want to get my speed right," Spaight said. "I'm doing a lot of DB drills trying to help my footwork, so it'll be even better once I'm doing linebacker drills."
As the 2015 regular season winds down, one that has been almost a redshirt year of sorts for Spaight, he's ready to come back stronger next year.
"I've been going back into meetings and getting a feel for the scheme and still learning while I'm out right now," Spaight said. "So just trying to be a better player next year once I come back."