LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Brian Robinson Jr. soaked in the ovation from fans when he ran out of the tunnel for his NFL debut, then he was ready to put what happened in late August behind him.
Robinson made his NFL debut for the Washington Commanders on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, six weeks to the day after being shot in an attempted robbery. He ran nine times for 22 yards and was his team’s leading rusher in a 21-17 loss.
“My focus was on being on the field and helping my team win,” Robinson said. “I just kept my head high. I didn’t complain. I didn’t try and go back in the past and just did everything I had to do to take steps forward. That’s what helped me make the progress that I’ve made.”
Robinson practiced Wednesday and was activated off the non-football injury list Saturday.
Neither he nor coach Ron Rivera had committed to Robinson playing right away.
But Robinson was medically cleared to play and made extensive progress since being released from the hospital, which was enough for the Commanders to get him in the lineup. He got into the game on Washington’s second possession and split snaps with Antonio Gibson.
“It was a good thing,” Rivera said. “The hard part about it was any time Brian was in the game they were teeing off. Now that part of it is over, and he played. You know he’s ready to roll.”
Robinson, 23, was shot twice in the right leg Aug. 28 in Washington, and the bullet that struck his right knee missed all the bones and ligaments. He underwent surgery before being released from a hospital a day later and returned to the team’s practice facility the same week.
Finally getting into a pro game was the biggest milestone yet.
“I really can’t explain the feeling of getting back out on the field,” Robinson said. “Today everything finally came to the light, and I’m just so blessed to be back out there.”
The third-round pick out of Alabama was expected to be the team’s starting running back after an impressive training camp and preseason. Now the 1-4 Commanders could really use Robinson providing a spark for their struggling offense that did some good things before Carson Wentz was intercepted at the 1-yard line with 6 seconds left against the Titans.
“We’re all excited,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said Thursday. “I mean, we’re excited about the personal aspect of the story. Just such an amazing thing for him to come back after what he’s been through. But as a player, he’s going to give us some juice and that physical presence and just a good all-around back.”
Washington ran the ball only 17 times against Tennessee. Moving forward, Robinson could help balance the offense and open up play-action possibilities once he’s fully in game shape.
“It’s another quality player that the defense has to account for,” Turner said.
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