By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Pat White is back in the NFL, which is the first step in his comeback attempt, but the former West Virginia University star has a lot of work cut out for him if he is to stick with the Washington Redskins.
White, who spent one season with the Miami Dolphins after being drafted as the 44th selection following his senior season, signed a one-year contract after passing a physical and going through a workout at Redskins Park on Wednesday afternoon.
He was picked by Miami as a backup quarterback and to be a specialized QB in there on running plays, never completing a pass in five attempts, gaining 81 yards in 21 attempts and ending the season by suffering a serious concussion in the final game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Six months ago, after spending time with the UFL Virginia Destroyers and trying to make it with the Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins farm systems, White joined a growing lawsuit against the NFL for causing head injuries.
The suit was filed last Nov. 17 with other players, claiming his ability to play football was in doubt.
Included in the suit was a paragraph that alleged White suffered “repeated and chronic head impacts” in the NFL that put him at risk for “latent brain disease.”
The lawsuit said White continues to suffer from “permanent injuries” including cognitive problems, “severe headaches, speech issues, memory loss, depression, isolation, mental anguish and diminished self-esteem.”
However, before signing with the Redskins, he dropped the suit.
White’s signing was interesting in that he is a quarterback very similar in ability to last year’s top rookie Robert Griffin III, who has been able to mix his running ability with a strong passing arm. White went to a quarterback camp to work on his passing to ready himself for this final effort at age 27 at making the NFL.
Griffin III was injured at the end of last season, but now White gives them someone to run their as he recovers or if he is slow in recovering. Kirk Cousins has been the No. 2 quarterback and said on Washington, D.C., radio that he understood the signing of White.
“That’s not surprising to me,” Cousins said, when asked about a potential White signing. “I felt like with Robert’s health where it is right now, to be able to have a guy who can do some of the thing Robert does athletically would be important, especially in this offseason time when you’re trying to stay sharp and develop your base playbook and improve your base playbook. While I believe I can to some degree run those kind of things, the zone-read stuff is gonna be much better with a Pat White-type athlete in there who’s closer to Robert’s skill set.
“I think that’s a no-brainer to have a guy like that in at least for OTAs, if not longer,” Cousins continued. “A guy like me, I need to be much more perfect in my ball-handling and in my reads for it to work than maybe a Robert or a Pat White has to be. Now that being said, I didn’t have any reps in college with those plays, and so my ability to be more perfect is not there, whereas Robert had all these reps in college working on these plays. And so it just became a deal where I’m not comfortable running those plays at this current time last season.
“But with OTAs and minicamps and training camp, I believe if the coaches want me to, I can gain a comfort levels with these plays, where I can be fast enough to have them be effective. And once at least there’s a threat of those plays being run with me in the game, it does change a lot of things for a defensive coordinator, and so it’s worth it to explore.”
White, of course, broke the collegiate all-time rushing record while at West Virginia and won four bowl games, including the Sugar Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
When word first going around on Tuesday that White was on the verge of signing, many felt that meant the end of No. 3 quarterback Rex Grossman on the Redskins, but he was re-signed just hours before White signed.
If White works out, he almost certainly would beat out Grossman and be a solid choice to come in to back up Griffin III.
However, the Redskins certainly are looking at not only using him to spell Griffin III while running the same offense but to run the offense on scout teams when the Redskins are playing quarterbacks like Michael Vick, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.