After recovering from offseason knee surgery, the 2013 Pro Bowl defensive end slowly, but surely, worked his way back to the practice field towards the end of training camp, and then joined the first-team defense in team drills for the first time earlier this week in practice.
But Hatcher still was able to show the Redskins why he was one of the team’s main offseason acqusitions, as he notched his first-career sack with the team, victimizing quarterback Joe Flacco on third down in the first quarter to force a Baltimore punt.
“It felt great – that's what I came here to do,” said Hatcher, who led the Dallas Cowboys with a career-best 11 sacks a year ago. “It's like a bear lifted off my back, so I'm happy I was able to come out there and get a sack.”
Perhaps what’s even more impressive about the play is Hatcher simply bullrushed Pro Bowl guard Marshal Yanda to get to Flacco, who was unable to find an open receiver due to some tight coverage by the Redskins’ secondary.
“It felt great, just to be out there and knock some rust off and be out there with my team,” Hatcher said. “They welcomed me with open arms, and it felt great. It felt like I've been at home the whole time. It was very exciting to be out there.”
“It was good to see him out there in his first game experience with us, and he got a sack,” Gruden said. “He’s a force to be reckoned with. I think he’s a great addition to our football team.”
Hatcher knew he’d face a little bit of an uphill battle Thursday as he continues to recover from arthroscopic surgery to his left knee, a procedure that occurred in June.
He said he definitely felt a little bit winded at times in his first game of the year, but said he’ll get two weeks of rest now to prepare for the Redskins’ regular-season opener against the Houston Texans Sept. 7 at NRG Stadium.
“I'm rusty in some areas,” Hatcher said. “I've just got to get my wind up and work on my pad level down the stretch. As I get fatigued, I started playing a little high. As I got tired, my knee got a little tired. It's something that I've got two weeks to work on every day.”
As Hatcher spoke to the media after Thursday’s preseason matchup – which the Ravens won, 23-17 – defensive lineman
Hatcher smiled at the comment, and knows that the Redskins’ defense – with him rushing off the end – has the chance to make some noise in 2014.
“I think we've got a lot to build on,” he said. “I think we haven't even scratched the surface, but I think at the end of the day it's on us to work hard and be the heart and soul of this team. We've just got to go back to the drawing table and keep going.”