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Josh Morgan happy to be be pain-free

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim,RGIII

Morgan feels better after a season of agony

At an offseason practice a week ago, Josh Morgan showed the subtle differences in his game, fueled by two words he couldn't use last season: Pain free. This year, at least for now, those words translate into a spry Morgan. So he grabbed a slant pass near the goal line, reached the end zone and punctuated the catch with a dunk over the goal post. Later, he made a leaping catch in the end zone.

It's different. It's welcomed.

"I'm having fun again," Morgan said. "Last year was the most miserable year pain-wise that I ever played in my life since I started playing football. To be healthy now, it's like I'm rejuvenated."

His stats last season: 48 catches, 510 yards, two touchdowns -- and seven screws and a plate in his right ankle. He also tore ligaments in both hands -- the first one vs. St. Louis in Week 2 and the other vs. Philadelphia in Week 11.

"It hurt every time I ran a route and caught the ball," he said. "That is my job, to run routes and catch the ball. It feels a lot better to play with no pain this year."

Of course, nobody plays hurt in the spring and nobody knows how his season will unfold. But Morgan at least should enter training camp feeling better. Last summer he was coming off an ankle injury that required season-ending surgery in 2011 and was less than 100 percent when the season began.

The ankle robbed him of any explosiveness, whether on his routes or after the catch. He averaged 4.9 yards after the catch last season, according to ESPN. Those numbers aren't bad, but in his last 59 catches with San Francisco he averaged 6.4 yards after the catch. Also, teammates, and primary receivers, Santana Moss (5.9) and Pierre Garcon (7.4) were well ahead of him last season.

Morgan grew frustrated at times, believing his 2012 season was not indicative of his talent. That led to pep talks from the coaches every so often; they reminded him of what he was doing while being hurt. They were patient.

"He did an unbelievable job just being able to go out there and compete," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said, "especially with some of the setbacks he had with those screws in there. Anytime you have screws in your ankle and it's bothering you out of cuts, it is going to bother your running with the ball. But he's over that right now and hopefully he doesn't have any setbacks."

Quarterback Robert Griffin III said, "He's capable of being a beast and that's what we need him to be."

And staying healthy is the first step. That was obviously difficult, as was dealing with the pain.

"You can't really compensate because the NFL got strict on all the stuff, you can take so you're just taking two Aleve," Morgan said, "but that didn't take away the pain. You try not to think about it, but you can't help it sometimes, especially when blocking and using your hands.

"It was a lot on my mind, being the first year in the offense. To eliminate all that, I can't wait."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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