The Redskins announced Saturday that the 2013 Pro Bowl defensive end had passed a physical and was removed from the Active/Non-Football Injury list and added to the active roster.
Signed by the Redskins in March, Hatcher was yet to take the practice field with his teammates at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center, as he spent the first 12 days of camp going through rehab drills after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in June.
Shortly after Saturday's announcement, however, he was seen going through individual drills with his defensive linemates.
“I’m really excited,” Hatcher said after practice. “It seems like forever since I’ve been on the field. Today, I was actually able to do some stuff. Not taking (live unit) reps right now, but working my way through individuals and taking it day by day.”
While his teammates were preparing for the season and going through unit drills with the New England Patriots, Hatcher remained on the sideline, working with the strength staff to ensure he was physically ready to handle an increased workload before getting back to the field.
Cleared to re-join the defensive huddle, Hatcher’s next step in getting back to the same form that produced a career-high 11 sacks in 2013 is taking live repetitions.
That is expected to happen at some point next week, according to head coach Jay Gruden.
“Slowly but surely," Gruden said of Hatcher's progress. "Get him in some individual drills, see how he does and hopefully we’ll get him ready by the third week of preseason, maybe fourth, but we will see how he does. It depends on how he feels after he trains and making sure there is no other damage or what have you, but he’s coming along very well.”
Throughout his career, Hatcher has displayed both quickness and power coming off the line. He said that it may take some time to reach the level he’s capable of hitting.
"Yeah my explosion is one of those things I have to work through,” Hatcher explained. “You know, getting a 300-pound human being laying on me and see how I respond from there. So it's one of those things I've got to work through, that's why they're progressing me along.
“So next week I'll get some game reps -- like I said -- and see how it feels to have a human being laying on me and see how I respond from there."
Hustle is a key
Watch Hatcher highlights and you’ll notice that he’s a guy who is always giving it everything he has, regardless of the score.
Showing versatility, the former Grambling State star has sniffed out multiple screen plays and tracked running backs breaking to the outside.
It's those types that make Hatcher the proudest.
"Yeah, I take pride that if you look at film of every D-line in the league, there's not many guys you know running down 30 yards down the field making plays,” Hatcher said. “A lot of those guys look at the screens like it's foreign to them. So I take pride in getting to the football and making plays down the field."
Playing the role of spectator in the Redskins’ 23-6 victory over New England on Thursday, Hatcher noticed that the rest of the defensive line takes the same never quit approach.
"Just the hustle,” Hatcher said when asked about his thoughts of the game. “That’s the one thing we put our emphasis on. You can make a mistake, but never take a play off. Finish every play.
“Those guys really hustled to the ball and that was very motivating to me, you know to get back and just like I say to get back to that group. They play hard every down.”
Facing The Cowboys
There’s always heighted attention – at least from a media standpoint -- when a top-level player leaves a team he’s been a part of for a years, and then returns to face them shortly thereafter.
This will be the case for Hatcher when he plays the Dallas Cowboys – the team that drafted him -- twice this season.
Admitting that it’ll “be a little strange” entering the visitors’ locker room at AT&T Stadium, Hatcher said he’s not looking back.
His primary focus is on contributing to a Redskins defense relying on his prowess as an elite pass rusher.
"It’s going to be a little strange, but it's going to be very, very exciting,” said Hatcher, who played with the Cowboys for eight seasons. “Because you know it's a new team and like I said I'm looking forward to playing with these guys.
I've played against these guys and they just don't stop. It's going to be a good game Monday night, but I'm not going to focus on that right now. I'm focusing on one day at a time and this third preseason game."