Washington Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy knew he was in trouble when he heard a pop in his right hand late Saturday afternoon against the Eagles.
"I can generally play through almost anything," Murphy said. "So when I walk off the field it's usually serious."
It was. Murphy broke the third metacarpal of his hand as he hit tackle Jason Peters' chest with a move "between a hand swipe and a punch" and had to leave the game in the first quarter.
The Redskins on Tuesday announced that the rookie would be placed on the season-ending injured-reserve list. In a corresponding move, the teams signed offensive lineman Rishaw Johnson to the active roster.
"To make it almost that far along in my rookie season and then not be able to play in that last game is pretty frustrating," Murphy told reporters on Tuesday. "But it's part of the game, so you just kind of use it as extra motivation into the offseason."
Murphy said he doesn't have a timeline for recovery yet, but expects his hand to heal within four to six weeks. The injury, which, he joked, made him choose eating burgers over steak for his birthday on Monday, put a damper on the end of his season, but Murphy kept things in perspective by his locker.
A second-round pick from Stanford, Murphy started the last eight games at outside linebacker, helping fill in the vacancy left by an injured Brian Orakpo. He recorded 32 tackles, including 2.5 sacks, but admitted he was tested at all times by coaches, who wanted to see progress in the rookie's run defense.
"It drove me crazy," Murphy said. "I knew it was something I kind of needed to work on, especially so they could have confidence in me and my ability and trust that I could get a job done, so I just kind of learned where I fit in the defense."
Murphy said it droze him "crazy" as he worked his way through his version of a rookie wall, but finally began to see progress towards the end of the season.
Go behind the scenes as Redskins linebacker Trent Murphy goes in front of the camera for his 2014 photo shoot.
"I mean, being a competitive person… I want to win, and I believe I can win," he said. "I kind of kept working in the weight room, kept working on the field so it got to the point [that coaches said], 'You can stop the run, good job.'"
Murphy wouldn't speculate about potentially starting next year, but acknowledged that the league's competition matched his expectations. Having Ryan Kerrigan as a locker buddy certainly helped his transition and technique, too.
"You can probably tell his locker is empty right now," Murphy said of Kerrigan, who has a career-best 13.5 sacks this season. "He's either in the weight room or the training room. The guy, he never stops working, so [he's] definitely a good role model and a leader on the team to try to model your game after and your work ethic."
As for the offseason, Murphy knows he still has a lot of room for improvement.
"I definitely know there's a lot of work that needs to be done," he said, "and that it will get done."