Camp notes: Two stars return and Taylor Heinicke bounces back


ASHBURN, Va. — Washington was fortunate enough to get two of its top 10 contributors back on Thursday, as Brandon Scherff and Daron Payne were both activated off of the reserve/COVID-19 list and hopped back into their respective lines without any limitations.

While the team added those two forces, they shed their pads, opting to take the field in helmets and shorts. Even so, Ron Rivera was more than pleased with his guys' energy after what he felt was a lackluster effort in their last get-together.

Here's your daily dose of notes summarizing what went down at the club's headquarters here...

  • Kam Curl missed this session with an illness, but Rivera clarified that it was "nothing serious." Kyle Allen, again, missed as well, so he still hasn't participated here. Charles Leno Jr. was out to tend to a family matter, meaning Cornelius Lucas slid in at starting left tackle. Sammis Reyes was held out after hurting his right knee on Wednesday. 
  • This one's for you, Bruce Allen. Landon Collins donned gold game pants on Thursday, and he was the only player to do so. Somewhere, Washington's former team president will have a twinkle in his eye when he's informed of this item.
  • During red zone action, Ryan Fitzpatrick missed Terry McLaurin on one sequence, as McLaurin ran a sweet in-then-out route to shake free from William Jackson III. Had the QB seen his wideout, it would've been a walk-in touchdown. Fortunately, Fitzpatrick went right back to McLaurin on the next rep, when McLaurin darted in front of Jackson III on a slant and coasted over the goal line. After posting seven touchdowns as a rookie, McLaurin had just four in 2020. Be ready for him to get back in the neighborhood of seven with Fitzpatrick at the helm — at least.
  • If Steven Sims keeps performing the way he is right now, he's going to be hard to let go. Yes, Sims really came up short in 2020 in Rivera's first season, but he's currently riding a streak of strong outings, and the coach explained Wednesday that what happens in camp can change his perception of someone. Early on, Fitzpatrick picked Sims out as he was running up the seam, and Sims was able to grab the throw over Jimmy Moreland and in front of Deshazor Everett. If Rivera truly goes with who's playing the best — instead of adding in other factors like whom he drafted, which is often a part of roster decisions — there's a real chance Sims sticks around for September and beyond (should he maintain the level he's at). 
  • As far as Fitzpatrick's backup, Taylor Heinicke, he should be proud of how he ran the offense Thursday. He wasn't quite in that Tampa Taylor zone, but he was much more decisive and accurate than he's been in recent outings. He also broke the pocket for two or three first-down scrambles, reminding defenders of his quickness. 
  • Special teams boss Nate Kaczor ripped into William Bradley-King for slowly jogging into position during a kick return drill, which was a departure from Kaczor's usual, positive tact. That prompted offensive line coach John Matsko to remind his charges, who were kneeling on the sideline, that they can "learn from other's mistakes." These assistants are always teaching, and nothing gets by them.
  • A few, um, imaginative people on the Internet believe that Rivera has his own version of Taysom Hill in Steven Montez, but let's chill out with that. On a couple of throws a day, Montez looks capable, but he throws a wobbly, floating spiral anytime he has to go deep, and he also misses a host of inane attempts. He does possess good size for the position and has produced a few pro-ish runs in camp, but he's not ready to compete on Sundays at this level yet. With more development, that could change, but it'd have to be a lot more development.
  • Instead of coming back to the facility on Friday, Washington will instead hold a Friday Night Football event at FedEx Field. It'll be the first time since 2019 that more than a smattering of supporters will be able to watch the Burgundy and Gold play at their home stadium; 20,000 or so free tickets were made available when the organization first announced the news. Hopefully the squad will throw on the pads and put on a show for those in attendance — and hopefully, no Eagles or Cowboys jerseys will be in the stands. It's too early in the season for that crap. 
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