WASHINGTON — Ryan Kerrigan has never missed a start in his NFL career, a streak that stretches back 111 games. It’s the longest active streak among NFL linebackers and gives him the chance to be the first Redskins linebacker to start each game in his first seven seasons.
This week, after injuring his calf during practice, that streak stands in jeopardy. But don’t tell head coach Jay Gruden.
“Let’s not jinx anybody up here,” Gruden said. “He’s just been very durable, reliable and productive. Those three adjectives are hard to come by nowadays, and we are fortunate to have him.”
As Gruden knows, it isn’t just a streak that’s on the line. Kerrigan is having another Pro Bowl season, tallying 11 sacks, including two last week and two in Week 12 against the Giants.
Kerrigan’s dominance the first time they played the Giants this season is part of the reason that then-coach Ben McAdoo benched Eli Manning the following week. Now, Kerrigan almost certainly craves an encore performance.
“That’s huge, especially when you’re even going into the NFL draft with guys that are playing for 16, 17 weeks–of course–18, 19,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “You need those guys, and to trust on Ryan that he’s going to play, I mean, he’s going to do everything he can.
“What he’s done from playing for such a long time, even last year with his elbow — two times, he actually hurt it — it’s just great to have those guys and you know you can always rely on them.”
Listed as questionable, Kerrigan technically has a 50-50 chance of playing. If he is healthy enough to start but limited in action, the Redskins could turn to Junior Galette in an increased role to rush the passer alongside Preston Smith.
But if Kerrigan isn’t healthy enough to play, then the Redskins are not willing to put him at risk.
“No. No. The injury does,” Gruden said of the injury vs. the streak. “If he can’t run, then he won’t play. He did a little bit today, so he looks like he’s on the upward trend as to playing.”