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Morgan: 'I Had No Choice But To Overcome'


Imagine his surprise.

Wide receiver Joshua Morgan was told by one his coaches in San Francisco his rookie season that he wasn't going to make it in the NFL.

In Week 11, he was inactive for the first time in his six-year career.

Both adverse situations fueled Morgan's rebound performance against his former team on Monday Night Football.

He finished the night with five receptions on six targets, tallying 45 yards, totaling nearly one-thrid of his production all season.

But his path to prime-time began long before Week 12.

Signing with his hometown team in March 2012 after five seasons in the Bay Area, Morgan made an instant impact alongside fellow receivers Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss.

He was quarterback Robert Griffin III's go-to when Garcon was battling a foot injury that rendered him incapable of competing at times.

Morgan played through the pain, refusing to succumb to foot, ankle and hand injuries, with the opportunity to be a primary threat for the first time in his professional career.

Including touchdown receptions against Baltimore and Philadelphia down the stretch, Morgan recorded a team-high 48 receptions.

"It's going to hurt, regardless," Morgan said of his mindset to persevere through the discomfort. "It's either going to hurt when I'm sitting still, sitting at home, it's going to hurt going out there doing what you've got to do to help your team win. Any means necessary that was my mentality."

Getting needed surgery in the offseason to remove a plate and seven screws in his right ankle and torn ligaments in each hand, Morgan vowed to come back stronger this season.

"I'm just looking forward to actually rehabbing," Morgan told in February. "It's [the] offseason getting all the way healthy and coming back stronger next year is my goal."

Entering training camp with no ill-effects from the problem areas that plagued him in 2012, Morgan appeared ready to take the next step in Year 2 under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.

In the first game of the season Morgan picked up right where he left off with four catches for 51 yards.

But, for reasons unknown to the media, Morgan saw his role diminish quickly.

Between Weeks 4-10, he recorded only three catches for 15 yards—far from the impact he made the season before.

His role on special teams as the primary punt and kick returner also came into jeopardy after a lack of game-changing plays.

Ninety minutes before Week 11's opening kick against Philadelphia, Morgan was part of the announced inactives. 

It was a shocking reality-check moment for the soft-spoken veteran.

Never in his first 74 NFL games had he been a healthy inactive, but he watched from the sideline as his teammates attempted to mount a comeback against Philadelphia.

"That was actually my first time ever being inactive," Morgan said Monday. "I've even played injured like I did all of last year, with two broken hands and seven screws in my foot.

"That was definitely tough, not being out there, but the way my life [has] kind of went, the way I was raised, the way I grew up, you deal with adversity in all shapes and sizes. I've had no choice but to overcome everything."

After head coach Mike Shanahan announced that Leonard Hankerson, who had leapfrogged Morgan in the starting lineup, was being placed on injured reserve with an LCL and ACL injury, Morgan got his chance at redemption.

"I explained to [Morgan] what he needs to do in both special teams and at wide receiver to get to the level that I think he can get to," Shanahan said at one of his press conferences before the San Francisco game. "Because he does have the ability to be a Pro Bowl player, and I want to get that out of him."

He delivered against the team that drafted him.

On the Redskins' first drive of the second quarter, the unit needed something to jumpstart them and remedy an early funk.

That found the solution in Morgan.

Catching three balls for 18 yards, the former Virginia Tech star's contributions allowed the Redskins to get into field goal range and Kai Forbath to tack on the first points of the night.

The next drive, however, he showed that he hasn't lost that playmaker label he fought for last season.

On 1st-and-10 from the Washington 39-yard line, Griffin III found Morgan after he hedged his way through man coverage for an 18-yard gain.

Three plays later on 3rd-and-3, the two connected once again, this time on a screen pass that Morgan controlled, turned, and tiptoed his way to a nine-yard gain.

The redemptive performance reflected his never-quit mindset; a mindset he carries regardless of how he performs.  

"I always have a chip on my shoulder," Morgan told reporters when asked if he played more inspired following his benching. "I always play angery with a chip on my shoulder. I think that it's from the way I grew up and the way I was raised. It's just added fuel to the fire.

"Believe in yourself. Believe in everything you can do as a player and if you do your job you can focus on the little things and go out there and give your maximum effort."

Facing defenses struggling in pass coverage over the next five weeks, Morgan and his teammates have an opportunity to get the offensive machine back to full-speed.

In order for that to be achieved everyone must focus on the task at hand.

"We've just got to keep focusing on the little things and just keep fighting, keep getting better," Morgan said. "We can't worry about nobody else we've just got to worry about getting better and do what we can do as individuals."




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