Commanders prepare to play without Robinson after shooting

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Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson Jr. (8) scores a touchdown during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

ASHBURN, Va. – Brian Robinson Jr. is out of the hospital and on the road to recovery after being shot twice in his right leg during an attempted robbery last weekend.

While there’s no timetable for Robinson to play football again, knowing that’s even a possibility potentially later in the year because the rookie running back avoided more serious injury is helping teammates and Washington Commanders officials process the situation. The NFL team is preparing to open the season without Robinson, who was expected to be a starter and play a key role.

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“He is tremendously blessed and fortunate to be where he is,” general manager Martin Mayhew said. “Initially when you hear something like that, you worry about the guy living and then you worry about his health long term and then you worry about his ability to play football. And so for him to come through that situation the way that he did is a tremendous blessing.”

Robinson had surgery Monday and then was discharged from a Washington hospital. The 23-year-old who played at Alabama showed up on crutches to the team’s practice facility Tuesday and Wednesday and met with players, coaches and doctors.

Coach Ron Rivera, who visited Robinson in the hospital on Sunday night in the aftermath of the shooting, said it was important for players to see their wounded teammate in person.

“It was an emotional thing because they could see he was OK,” Rivera said. “I think that really kind of put a lot of their minds at ease.”

Robinson's experience and his absence are on the minds of Commanders players and staff. Simultaneously, they've attempted to compartmentalize the situation and get back to work in preparation for the season opener Sept. 11 against Jacksonville.

That extends to the front office, which had to make cuts down to the 53-man roster knowing Robinson wouldn’t be available right away and for the foreseeable future.

“Certainly you have to adjust in those situations,” Mayhew said. “Fortunately, we had good depth at running back.”

Antonio Gibson moves back into the starting role, and Jonathan Williams made the team — something that was in question before Robinson was injured. Williams, a seven-year veteran out of Arkansas, has a running style that is close to Robinson’s, which played a role in Washington keeping him.

“I think we have some similarities,” Williams said. “We’re both guys who have played running back a whole lot, so we have that kind of natural-runner type of run.”

The idea that Robinson could be running again sooner than later is particularly remarkable because a bullet went through his right knee and did not damage any significant ligaments or joints.

“When I found that out, I was just in awe,” starting left tackle Charles Leno said. “I was just shocked that it wasn’t a life-threatening injury or career-ending or anything like that.”

Along with the optimism shared by Alabama coach Nick Saban that Robinson could return before the end of the season comes a sense of caution from the Commanders. Leno expressed concern about Robinson’s mental well-being, and Rivera said that will be a factor along with physical availability.

“We know he’s got a bright future, and the future doesn’t have to be immediately now,” Rivera said. “Until he’s ready to roll, we have no intention of putting him out there.”

NOTES: The Commanders are bringing back veteran linebacker Jon Bostic, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced. ... Starting strong safety Kam Curl missed practice and had his right arm in a cast and a sling. Asked about Curl, Rivera said: “We don’t have to give you the injury report until next Wednesday, so we’ll stay away from that.” ... Washington claimed two young defensive backs off waivers: second-year pro Rachad Wildgoose from the New York Jets and rookie Tariq Castro-Fields from the San Francisco 49ers. Linebackers David Mayo and De’Jon Harris were released to make room on the roster, and tight end Curtis Hodges is set to go on injured reserve with a designation to return to make room for Bostic.


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