Wide receiver Cam Sims showed glimpses of promise seemingly whenever he stepped onto the field a year ago. The undrafted free agent turned in a "tremendous" training camp and emerged as one of the Redskins' leading pass-catchers during the preseason. Future playing time appeared imminent.
Then Sims suffered a high ankle sprain on the opening kickoff of the season opener and subsequently landed on IR. One play into his NFL debut, his rookie season was over.
"Every Sunday I would cry because I wasn't out there playing," Sims told Redskins.com in March. "I just had to get up out of that. After I stopped crying, I was just like, 'Man, let's go. I can't do that. Let's go. Let's go do something. Let's go work.'"
Nowadays, Sims is making up for lost time. He served as a popular target for quarterbacks Case Keenum and Dwayne Haskins in OTAs and during this week's three-day minicamp, catching nearly every pass hurled his way.
In a crowded wide receivers room, Sims has found plenty of ways to stand out.
"The injury happens, and [Sims] is kind of a forgotten guy for a year. We draft some young guys. We have some veterans coming back," offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell said after practice Tuesday. "But Cam's in a great spot right now. I think he's motivated to make sure that he's in the mix every single day and when his number's called."
It was impossible to ignore Sims during Day 1 of the Redskins' veteran minicamp Tuesday.
Playing with the first team in place of Brian Quick, who banged up his knee early in the session, Sims made a bunch of catches on a variety of different routes. Keenum and Sims hooked up several times throughout the workout, first on a post route and then on a quick slant during which Sims beat cornerback Josh Norman to the inside. During 11-on-11 drills, Sims showcased his big-play ability. On a go route down the right side, Sims outran All-Pro safety Landon Collins, who was coming over to help, and corralled a well-thrown deep ball from Keenum for a 60-yard touchdown.
"We all knew and saw Cam talent-wise last year when he had an opportunity to play, so we're all just continuing to be pleasantly pleased with the progress he's made," wide receiver coach Ike Hilliard said. "We know that he's a taller receiver that can bend and get in and out of breaks. With his skill set, if he continues to develop and take care of every opportunity that comes his way and makes sure he limits his mistakes, he has a chance to really take off in this offense."
"Following a quiet college career at Alabama, Sims signed with the Redskins as an undrafted free agent May 2 and wasted little time making his presence felt with the Redskins. When asked about the wide receiver battle at training camp, Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams said, "I think what has happened is the free agent kid from Alabama threw a hand grenade in this thing."
During the preseason, Sims caught five passes for 131 yards and had a touchdown called back because of a penalty.
"He was a playmaker in training camp last year from Day 1," O'Connell said. "Really pleasant surprise, we knew he had ball skills, we knew what he may be potentially could be, but at Alabama there was so much talent out there, maybe the nation didn't get to see some of those plays. Then he shows up here and he's confident, he works extremely hard, he's got a great skill set for that Z position which we're always looking for."
Sims' success is part of what made his injury and lengthy recovery so difficult. He proved to himself and his coaches that he was worthy of an NFL roster spot, yet all he said he could really do last season was rehab and delve into the Redskins' offense. "Shoot, when you're hurt the playbook is your friend," Sims told reporters Tuesday.
While frustrating at the time, Sims' in-season study habits have proved beneficial during offseason workouts. No longer does he second guess himself about his wide-ranging responsibilities within the Redskins' attack. "I can just go out there and play fast," Sims said.
His playmaking ability was on display Thursday during a two-minute drill at the end of practice. Once again, Sims found himself behind the defense, and once again Keenum found him, this time for a 40-yard gain down the left sideline.
It served as a fitting end to Sims' three-day minicamp, showing the quarterbacks' faith in the second-year wideout and his ability to capitalize whenever they looked his way.
"They help me more than I help them," Sims said about Keenum and Haskins. "Like in the meeting room, they help me as much as they can, so I help them on the field."