RICHMOND, Va. -- The reputation shadows him and will do so until Jordan Reed does one thing: Play every game. He missed seven games as a rookie; five more the next season and sat out the spring because of an issue with his knee. It hasn’t been just one thing; it’s a concussion and a quad injury and a hamstring as well.
There is not much Reed can do about some of it. A concussion, for example. But he also knows the reputation, so he spent the offseason changing his off-field habits to help him stay longer on the field.
"It’s out of anybody’s control whether they get hurt or not," Reed said. "Anything can happen on any play. But it is in my control to make sure I’m doing extra to make sure I can stop the nagging injuries from getting worse."
That means altering his eating habits. Reed said he’s eating all healthy foods. That means: no bread, no fried food, (mostly) no sweets. Just grilled chicken or baked chicken.
"Just real clean," Reed said.
That’s Part 1. The other part is stretching more. As Reed walked off the field this week, he carried a green elastic band that he uses during breaks on the sidelines, slipping it around his ankles for stretching exercises.
He stretches three times a day, with more serious intent.
"I used to stretch, but only a little bit before practice," Reed said. "Now I’m in the training room every chance I get. I’m in there at least three or four times a day, usually one of the last guys to leave the facility. Just making sure."
He’ll stretch, work on his quads and glutes. He wants to keep those areas strong to help prevent knee injuries.
"I’m excited, I feel it will be a good year for me," Reed said. "I’ll be able to play all 16 games."
In practices, Reed shows the athleticism and ability that excited the Redskins his rookie season. Then, he caught 45 passes for three touchdowns in nine games. Last season he caught 50 in 11 games but with no scores. Reed can run routes from the backfield, along the line or split wide. He has the versatility they like and he can get open downfield. Last season on third downs, he ran shorter routes (his air yards per target in 2013 was 7.59; it was 2.85 last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Consequently, he converted 13 of 14 catches for first downs as a rookie, but only eight of 18 last season).
But catching passes is not the issue with him. Rather, it’s his blocking. He progressed as a rookie, but not last season. In camp, the Redskins often use Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul in their two-tight-end-sets, especially if it’s a run.
"He’s got to continue to get better as a blocker, but as far as the passing game is concerned, he’s a threat, no doubt," coach Jay Gruden said. "He can run the option routes, the choice routes on the inside. He can line up on the outside and create mismatch problems for safeties or linebackers. So, he’s a big part of our offense when he’s healthy. We just have to try to do a good job of keeping him healthy."
Reed said he feels more burst after strengthening the left side of his body and his left leg, providing more of a push off the line. He also said he’s added eight pounds of muscle and is a little leaner.
"I’m a lot stronger than in the past, so that will help me out a lot," Reed said. "[Last year], I just wasn’t as strong at the point of attack. I’m stronger and able to deal with some of the bigger guys."
Whether all of this is just summer optimism or if it will play out on the field the way it is in Reed’s mind remains to be seen. The Redskins obviously hope Reed’s outlook is the one that unfolds.
"As far as a pass-catching tight end, he’s up there with the tops in the league," Gruden said. "We just have got to keep him healthy and obviously keep building his blocking strength."