The Washington Redskins had just picked up their fourth victory in as many weeks, and the same amount of time had passed since first-round pick Josh Doctson had set foot on the field. A reporter asked Coach Jay Gruden on Monday whether he thought the wide receiver might return this week.
Without hesitation, Gruden offered a definitive “no.”
It’s a weekly question at Redskins Park and has been since the spring, when the wideout strained his left Achilles’ tendon during rookie minicamp and lasted one full-squad practice before he missed the rest of the offseason, training camp and the preseason.
The Redskins have become even more perplexed by the rookie’s health. Rest and treatment aren’t helping the debilitating pain in his left leg go away. And people familiar with the situation say that as of late, Doctson’s right Achilles’ tendon has started bothering him significantly as well, and no one knows why.
Tests and scans conducted by multiple doctors haven’t turned up even microtears in either of the Achilles’ tendons. The lack of any evident structural damage is among the reasons why the Redskins decided not to place Doctson on the physically-unable-to-perform list to start the regular season, a move that would have kept him out at least six weeks. And it’s why team officials hesitate about putting him on the injured reserve list, which could end his season. But uncertainty remains about the course of action beyond getting Doctson off his feet and revisiting the situation in a few weeks.
“You know, it’s important for him to get well, and I think he understands that,” Gruden said Wednesday. “I think there’s a bigger picture here with Josh, and the bigger picture is ‘Let’s get him well, 100 percent. Figure out how.’ And if it’s immobilizing him for a little bit of time, maybe that’ll give him some relief to get to the bottom of this, then so be it, let’s do it. So we’ll have to wait and see what we’re going to do with him from a long-term perspective, but short term, let him get off of it for a while and see where that takes us.”
Gruden’s blunt assessments were a change from the routine, holding-out-hope answers the coach often has given.
Doctson hasn’t put on a uniform since Week 2, when he played 19 snaps and made one catch – a 57-yarder – on five targets against the Cowboys. He played in that game and the regular season opener against Pittsburgh despite admitting he didn’t feel 100 percent healthy.
Then in Week 3, pain kept Doctson from pushing off during pregame warmups, and he’s been held out ever since.
The injury has baffled team doctors, trainers and coaches, and independent specialists.
Doctson in the spring attributed it to training too hard for the NFL combine and draft. But time and rest haven’t helped his condition improve.
The Redskins had hoped that a few weeks of rest and treatment would correct the flare-up from Week 3. But Gruden revealed Monday that Doctson wasn’t close to returning, and team officials have begun wrestling with the decision of whether to place their top rookie acquisition on season-ending injured reserve.
Doctson’s treatment in recent weeks has included electric shock therapy, the player revealed earlier this month. And a person familiar with the situation also said Doctson has begun receiving platelet-rich plasma treatments.
The latest reports on Doctson’s condition coincide with Week 7, the first possible week in which the wide receiver would have been able to practice if he had been placed on the PUP list. It’s impossible to avoid the “What if?”
Late in the preseason, with Doctson still sidelined, team officials contemplated placing him on the PUP list to open the regular season but then decided against it and got Doctson ready to play in the season opener.
Asked Wednesday whether the Redskins had any regret over not just placing Doctson on the PUP list to start with, and what went into the decision not to do so, Gruden gave a long explanation.
“Well, he was a first-round draft pick, and he’s very talented, number one,” the coach began. “Number two, we wouldn’t have activated him if we didn’t think he was good enough to play or healthy enough to play and I think he felt good enough at that time where he could maybe fight through it, fight through some of the issues that he was having.
“After thinking about it, maybe we should have shut him down sooner. But being that we had the MRIs and the X-rays and we really didn’t have any physical evidence or any evidence to say this is going to do more damage to your Achilles’, we tried to see if he could fight through it or maybe it was going to get better.
“We just didn’t know. We still don’t know. But we’re going to rest him for a little while, and hopefully that’ll help.”
Doctson didn’t watch his teammates practice Wednesday or Thursday as he often does, and he didn’t hang out in the locker room during the 45-minute post-practice period open to reporters.
But in an interview with The Post two weeks ago, he said, “I’m gonna stay out ’til I feel like my body is ready to get back in there 100 percent. This last time I jumped in there, I was probably 70, 75. That was my decision [to play against Dallas]. It was a rookie mistake, so I learned from that.”
Learning when to play through pain and when to resttakes time, and it often comes through trial and error, Redskins veterans say.
“You learn the longer time you spend in the league,” fellow wide receiver Pierre Garcon said. “You see guys that play for 13 years or guys that play for five years. You see how they take care of their bodies and learn what they do to play for a long time. At the end of the day, you have to get healthy and stay healthy. If your body makes any kind of little sound, you’ve got to jump on top of it before it gets worse.
“It sucks not being out there,” Garcon continued. “I’m sure he had a lot of high anticipation going into this year, but setbacks happen. . . . He doesn’t talk much about it. He’s a quiet guy. It sucks. He wants to be out on the field. We want to see him out there as well. But it’s part of the game.”