RICHMOND, Va. — When Landon Collins walked onto the field in May for his first day of practice for the Washington Football Team since tearing his Achilles tendon, he felt something he hadn’t “in a long time.”
He was nervous.
Collins, who suffered the injury against the Dallas Cowboys in October 2020, was told by doctors it would take between nine to 12 months to recover from surgery. Less than eight months later, the Washington safety was back much sooner than expected. Though Collins was “antsy,” he quickly realized the skills that allowed him to be a three-time Pro Bowler were still there. And then some.
“I feel way better than before,” he said. “I feel stronger, faster, in shape, just doing my thing. … I’m happy now.”
This is a big year for Collins. Three years into a six-year, $84 million contract, the 27-year-old has not performed at the level Washington perhaps expected when they lured him away from the New York Giants. But Collins has been a star in the NFL before, and after playing in only seven games last season, he said he is determined to rise to the top of the league again.
“I want to prove that I’m the best safety on the field and around the league,” Collins said. “I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again. … That’s what they brought me here to do.”
Collins returns in a different situation than when he was named a captain a year ago. Seventh-rounder Kamren Curl stepped up to replace Collins in the secondary. Collins said Curl did well playing in his place, but as he gets into shape, Collins said there can be a spot on the field for both of them.
Collins will have to earn his role, though. In the months before training camp, when Collins was not fully cleared for contact, the safety watched from the sideline — soaking in mental reps and viewing film to stay sharp. He believes the work helped.
“Putting my mindset on the field helps me out on the field a lot,” Collins said after Friday morning’s practice at training camp. “It slows my mind down, it slows my anticipation down so I can just go out there and be the football player that I can be.”
For Collins, the most important thing was to return to training camp at a certain weight. He said it was important to not be overweight because that could strain the newly healed tendon and risk re-injuring it.
The guidance has led to Collins boasting that he‘s in the best shape of his life. And while that may be hard to prove, head coach Ron Rivera seems impressed with Collins’ recovery. Rivera said Collins was “playing fast,” and noted the way the safety has been productive in camp. On Friday, Collins tracked Taylor Heinicke’s pass as soon as the ball left the quarterback’s hand and sprinted over to break up the play.
“He looks great,” Rivera said. “He’s in great shape. He’s working really well right now and we’re rolling him through with the ones, rolling through with the twos. He’s getting a lot of reps just mixing it up. We got him playing in a couple of different spots and he’s done a really nice job with all that.”
Collins, Washington‘s highest-paid defensive player, said he won’t fold under the pressure. He said he‘s dealt with it his entire football career, dating back to being a five-star recruit out of high school.
“Pressure breaks pipes, but I’m a strong pipe,” Collins said. “I promise you that.”
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