Redskins RB Helu returning to health

Redskins RB Helu returning to health
August 6, 2013, 12:15 pm
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Tarik's top stories going into game 1 of pre-season

(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)

RICHMOND—When the Redskins released their first depth chart of the 2013 season on Monday, Roy Helu Jr. was listed as the second string running back behind Alfred Morris.

It was a welcome development, but Helu has been around long enough to know it’s too early to view the designation as a vote of confidence. The battle for roster spots, he said, is actually just about to heat up.

“We haven’t even played a game,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone, that’s how I see it. It’s just a formality.”

Helu missed all but three games 2012 because of a toe injury that eventually required surgery in February. A few months later, it still was unclear when – or even if – the 24-year-old would return to full speed.

Two weeks into training camp, though, those questions are starting to disappear.

“They’ve taken care of me, the coaching staff and the training staff,” Helu said. “I’m just real thankful that the (toe) hasn’t hampered me a bit.”

Asked if this is as healthy as he’s been in more than a year, he smiled and said, “It’s up there, for sure. Definitely functional enough to go and compete every day.”

Helu, in fact, has been among the biggest surprises of camp thus far, showing the quickness, elusiveness and sure hands that could make him an ideal option on third downs.

“I think we saw what Roy did in the Seattle game when we played out there,” Coach Mike Shanahan said, referring to Helu’s 28-year touchdown run in 2011 that began with him hurdling a cornerback. “He made such a big play it was the difference in us winning that football game, when he hopped over the defender and went … for a touchdown. He has that type of ability. He is strong. He’s fast, he’s elusive, and he is healthy now so we get a chance to evaluate him. Hopefully he can keep on improving like he did in his rookie year.”

When the Redskins face the Titans on Thursday, Helu will receive his first game action since last September. He said his challenge in the coming days is going to be focusing on practice and meetings, not his long-awaited return to the field.

“I need to taper back my mindset and be like, ‘I have practice today and then I have meetings later today,’” he said. “I have to focus on those things because it’s easy, being gone for this long, to look forward to Thursday. But who knows what will happen before then?”