WASHINGTON — Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy is intent on showing his breakthrough season in 2016 was no fluke.
But he will have to wait until Week 6 of the 2017 season to prove it. Murphy learned in March that he was suspended for four games after violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
“It was extremely disappointing to find out,” Murphy said. “It’s kind of like a gut-wrenching feeling. It took me by total surprise. Extremely disappointed by it.”
Murphy was expected to play defensive end last season, but injuries to teammates forced him back to outside linebacker. Yet he produced a solid season with nine sacks.
It was a nice sign of progress for Washington’s 2014 second-round draft pick. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, Murphy could set himself up for a nice payday after the season. But he also knows that some will question the legitimacy of his breakthrough after the drug suspension.
“Really the people who are closest with you and know your character, know where you come from, they’ll always be by your side,” Murphy said. “My team has rallied around me and been very supportive. Just gonna do the best I can to recover from this.”
Murphy knows exactly when he can return. It’s a four-game suspension, but he won’t be back for Week 5, either. The Redskins are on a bye. He can play again in the Week 6 contest against San Francisco at FedEx Field.
Depth at outside linebacker remains an issue for Washington so Murphy’s suspension hurts. Preston Smith worked opposite Ryan Kerrigan in the first organized team activities (OTAs) sessions open to the media on Wednesday.
Other outside linebackers include veteran Junior Galette, who has missed the past two seasons with torn Achilles tendons, and 2017 second-round draft pick Ryan Anderson, who played college football at Alabama.
Galette appears ahead of schedule after he took part in 11-on-11 drills during Wednesday’s non-contact practice, though Washington is still being cautious with him. Smith has questions of his own after dropping from eight sacks as a rookie to 4.5. Anderson is highly regarded, but still a rookie.
All three of those players will have four chances in games to show that they deserve snaps ahead of Murphy, who will have to bide his time. He can practice with the Redskins during the offseason and training camp, but once the regular season begins he won’t be allowed at the team facility in Ashburn. It’s going to be a long wait.
“The only way I could move on was to just get back to work and keep my head down and keep grinding,” Murphy said. “It’s disappointing. It doesn’t reflect who I am as a player.”
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