AP NEWS

Montae Nicholson, concussion-free, gets back to ‘the greatest stress relief ever’

June 1, 2018 GMT

ASHBURN The first concussion of Montae Nicholson’s life didn’t come from a collision with another player. The Redskins safety said he got it when his head hit the turf of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against the New Orleans Saints in November.

Nicholson, a 2017 fourth-rounder out of Michigan State, did not return for the rest of the season, missing the team’s final six games.

Further, Nicholson said his symptoms weren’t completely gone until early-to-mid January.

“It’s just scary, to be honest,” Nicholson said. “It’s scary to know that the slightest bump on the head or the ground or whatever it is can give you a concussion.”

Gradually, Nicholson’s condition improved. His vision was less sensitive to light. Loud noises became more tolerable.

Now back on the football field, Nicholson said Wednesday his previous head injury won’t affect how he goes about playing.

As a rookie, Nicholson had an impactful year. He started six of his eight games alongside D.J. Swearinger, recording 24 tackles and an interception.

The 22-year-old left such an impression that coach Jay Gruden told reporters in March that Nicholson was “very similar” to Jordan Reed on offense.

“He can cover so much ground,” Gruden said.

Nicholson has all the qualities necessary to take the classic “jump” in Year 2. But like Reed, the Redskins will need him to stay healthy.

Outside of his concussion, he dealt with lingering shoulder issues, which caused him to sit out two games in 2017. Nicholson also spent most of the 2017 offseason recovering from shoulder surgery, and couldn’t practice until training camp.

“Last year was a great test for him,” Gruden said. “The more he gets comfortable, his athleticism is as good as there is a safety in the NFL. We have great faith that he’s going to be an excellent player for us for years to come.”

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky praised Nicholson’s talent in tracking the ball through the air and “just playing great coverage.” Manusky added second-year players often go from understanding the basics of the NFL to figuring out how opposing offenses will attack them.

Nicholson said he understands the team’s expectations since he demands a lot from himself. “The pressure they’re applying isn’t anything to me,” he said.

As for the concussion, Nicholson said he never worried about developing “post-concussion syndrome” like former Redskins safety Su’a Cravens did. Cravens’ symptoms, of course, caused him to leave the team prior to the 2017 season to mull retirement.

Nicholson, too, had his share of violent hits to the head last season. He was seen twitching on the ground after a collision with Pierre Garcon, though passed concussion protocol and returned to the game. In Week 4 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Nicholson remained hunched over, following a devastating hit on receiver Albert Wilson.

Nicholson said he tries to take care of his mind and keep the stress “out of my way.”

“It’s kind of easy when this is probably the greatest stress reliever ever, to be honest,” he said.