*For the first time since injuring his left shoulder against the Jets, running back Matt Jones returned to the practice field and said he felt great. *
Running back Matt Jones returned to practice on Monday for the first time since he suffered a sprained AC joint to his left shoulder in the Redskins' second preseason game against the Jets.
Jones worked out with a yellow, non-contact jersey on just to be cautious, something head coach Jay Gruden said Jones "didn't like," as he aims to start in Monday night's season opener with the Steelers.
The plan is to insert Jones into full contact practice starting Wednesday or Thursday and see how he progresses before making a final decision on his game status.
"That's the intent right now. We're just bringing him along," Gruden said. "It's going to be interesting to see how he does Wednesday and Thursday. We'll get another day of pads on one of those two days; I haven't decided which one yet. But, that'll tell a lot."
"It felt great to be back out there, just shaking the rust off a little bit, getting my tracks back right, just being back out with the team and into the huddle. It felt good," Jones said.
Jones injured his shoulder being tackled by a New York defender out of bounds on his seventh carry of the first quarter, in which he gained 31 yards. Gruden ruled out Jones for the rest of the preseason following his diagnosis and the Florida product has been working on the side fields for the past two weeks to get back into shape.
The second-year back said he can feel a huge difference since the injury, recalling that he couldn't move his shoulder at first, but that now he's "banging it around."
"I haven't felt any pain today, which is a great thing for me," Jones said. "It kind of helps your mind out, too, that you can take a hit and you can get back up and make the next play, so I mean, I feel great about it, just keep rehabbing and keep getting better."
The transition from that Jets game to a non-contact practice felt seamless, he said.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 1 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday, Sept. 5, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
"I feel like my tracks were a little bit rusty but once I got going today I felt great about myself and great about the game plan," Jones said. "I feel like I just fell right back in to it. So I don't feel like nothing changed. Just carry that right over."
Since Jones' injury, the Redskins witnessed the emergence of running back Robert Kelley, who made the 53-man roster, helping in their decision-making to place seventh-round draft pick Keith Marshall on Injured Reserve. With Chris Thompson as the third-down back and Mack Brown ready to go on the practice squad, Monday helped Gruden feel more confident with the young rushing attack heading into the season.
"We feel good that the three backs that we have right now are going to be very good," Gruden said, "and with Mack Brown waiting in the wings, we have four excellent ones in-house."