RICHMOND, Va. — Jordan Reed has two fewer bones and a whole lot of peace of mind.
Toe soreness in offseason workouts more than a year ago became lingering pain that threw off everything for the Washington Redskins tight end. Overcompensation led to a hamstring injury that kept Reed off the field, and he never felt like himself even when he was able to play.
So Reed (University of Florida) went under the knife twice to have a sesamoid bone in each big toe removed. Reed now feels “100 times better” and hopes his toe injuries are a thing of the past so he can get back to his form of 2015, when he had 87 catches for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“It’s definitely a relief,” Reed said Friday. “Just having that nagging pain for two years was awful and now it’s gone, so it’s just a lot better.”
Reed said toe fractures gave him little choice but to have the surgeries, one on his left foot in December and the other on the right in February. They’ve so far worked out far better than his decision to get a stem-cell injection in the summer of 2017 that aggravated his toe problem so much he couldn’t walk.
That self-described “poor decision” completely derailed Reed’s season, limiting him to 27 catches in six games. He tried orthotics in his shoes to ease the pain, but nothing worked, leading to an operation that’s more common for dancers and exceedingly rare for the general public.
“That’s usually kind of like the last stop on the train,” said Mark Drakos, a foot and ankle surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “They’re very little bones. They’re about the size of like a Peanut M&M, so they’re very, very small. Most bones, if they break or they don’t heal, we’ll go in and fix them with plates and screws of if you break your ankle, we put it back together. These are so small that a lot of times we just take it out because it’s quicker. It’s a quicker recovery.”
Reed is well past the usual eight-to-12-week recovery period and has looked sharp in individual and team drills early in camp. Just having him on the field again is a plus for the Redskins, who need the 28-year-old to create matchup problems for opposing defenses.
“He is a unique guy at the tight end position that can do so many things: route-running with the ball in his hands after the catch,” new quarterback Alex Smith said. “He is oftentimes the guy that it doesn’t really matter who’s lined up against him — linebacker, safety, corner. He is a guy that I think has the skill set to win against all these positions.”
Coach Jay Gruden, who early in camp a year ago didn’t thinkReed’s toe injury would be a long-term concern, is hopeful now because, as he put it, “I have to be.”
“I think he’s one of the top tight ends in the National Football League when healthy,” Gruden said. “Last year, he tried to fight through a couple of those injuries in the offseason. He got them fixed, so hopefully we’ll put an end to all those foot and toe injury things and ankle. Jordan, he feels great right now, very optimistic about the way his body feels and now it’s our job to make sure we just progress him along at a good rate.”
Gruden hopes to get Reed into a preseason game or two and have him 100 percent for the season opener against Arizona. On a team with a handful of players working back from injuries, Reed is taking a conservative approach as he balances restraint with the excitement of what he could do when finally healthy again.
“Still working through that with the coaches and taking it slow,” he said. “I’m just getting my body built back up. … I’m confident moving forward.”