Back on the practice field this week following a hamstring injury that sidelined him during the second half of training camp, Junior Galette could play in Sunday's game against Cincinnati.
For more than two years now, the Washington Redskins have waited to unleash pass rusher Junior Galette on the field.
A July 2015 free agent signing for the Redskins, Galette registered 22 combined sacks across the 2013-14 seasons, which ranked tied with Ryan Kerrigan for second-most in the NFC and tied for sixth-most in the NFL in that span.
But since the end of the 2014 season, Galette has yet to see the field in any preseason or regular season action. Both his 2015 and 2016 campaigns were wiped clean by separate torn Achilles and he hasn't appeared in the first two preseason games this year as he's dealt with a hamstring injury.
Galette returned to the practice field on Wednesday, though, participating in individual drills alongside his fellow outside linebackers. The team also tested him out on some of the 11-on-drills, which head coach Jay Gruden said Galette "felt pretty good" with after the completion of the session.
"It's been two years, so now it's getting to the point where it's like a movie that's supposed to be released and keeps getting postponed," Galette said with a smile. "And you're like, 'Man.' Then we've got Jay Gruden here talking about, 'You're just a tease.' You know, he's kidding around, but at the same time you're like, 'I want to go out there and prove that I am everything they expect me to be.'"
The Stillman College product could potentially make his Redskins debut Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, although Gruden doesn't want to rush him back. The head coach said he'll be a "game-time decision" on Sunday afternoon.
"I would like to get him some action before he plays because he hasn't played in a couple years," Gruden said. "So, I would like to get him out there, but I also don't want to jeopardize his hamstring and have him re-injure it. There is a fine line there. We will have to wait and see how he does."
Getting Galette back on the field, whether that's this Sunday against the Bengals or waiting until the regular season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 10, will provide the Redskins a boost to an outside linebackers corps that took a hit when Trent Murphy was lost for the year with a torn ACL and MCL suffered in the preseason opener against the Baltimore Ravens.
Check out behind the scenes images from Linebacker, Junior Galette's 2017 Redskins Photo Shoot.
Gruden understands that Galette is "fired up" to return to game action.
"He's put a lot of work in," Gruden said earlier this month. "I'm proud of the fact [of] what he's accomplished getting his body right, getting his weight down, getting himself in football shape. …He feels like he's in as good of shape as he's ever been in. Now it's about working on his pad level, his hand placement and all that stuff. He's on the right track."
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky added that getting Galette preseason reps would be "huge."
"We have got to see him that way because he hasn't started, he hasn't played in two years or whatever it has been," Manusky said. "During practice he has been doing a great job. He is confident in his abilities. His abilities are very good right now. I think right now learning the defense, he has done a great job, but he has been banged up. I want to see him against good personnel and see what he can do. So it is majorly important that he plays in these preseason games."
Before suffering a hamstring injury in training camp, Galette was one of the standout players when the team was at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
The speed rusher was giving five-time Pro Bowler Trent Williams a run for his money at times during 1-on-1 drills, which rarely happens.
"[Its] the best way to get better," Galette said of his camp battles with Williams. "He's going into Year Eight and I played six years… I can't think of an NFL lineman that's better than him so you have to take advantage. Every chance I get to go up against him I tell him, 'I'm not going to take [this] play off,' because you don't get to see a lineman like that every Sunday."
His eventual return to the field – 32 months after he last appeared in a game setting -- will be something special to watch.
"I'm [going to] give him a little credit, too, from this standpoint – how many guys can have two Achilles on different ankles and work as hard as he has to get back to this point? I think he did that," said Redskins vice president of player personnel Doug Williams said. "I mean, he can't control a little tweak of the hamstring. I do believe if we can get him on the field, we'll see some of the Junior Galette that we are looking for. I'm [going to] give him the benefit of the doubt and say I think we can get something out of him."