Jason Verrett was once the Chargers’ first-round pick, a dynamic cornerback who quickly earned himself a spot on the Pro Bowl roster in his second season. Verrett was once on track to be a fixture in the Chargers’ secondary, a piece the defense could be built around.
But two knee surgeries later, all of that feels like a distant memory. On Day 2 of minicamp Wednesday, Verrett was just a guy entering the final year of his contract, a guy optimistic about his future, a guy hoping he’ll be healthy enough to recapture the successes of his past.
“I’m just happy to be able to move around,” he said.
“It’s great to see him out there,” coach Anthony Lynn said of Verrett, who played just five games over the last two seasons because of two surgeries on his left knee. “He’s been waiting for a long time. And, he’s right on track.”
Verrett returned from his first left knee surgery during training camp last season and played in the season opener before it was determined he’d need another surgical procedure.
Going through his second-straight rehab for the same injury, Verrett attacked the process with more information and expertise. So far, the results have been promising.
In the first two days of minicamp — he wasn’t necessarily expected to be on the field this soon — Verrett has flashed the speed, skill and quickness that had everyone so excited when he made the Pro Bowl in 2015. Wednesday marked his first full day of practice.
“Man, last year was tough,” Verrett said. “I was in a brace the whole time. It was like a little bit mentally and physically [challenging]. But now being out of the brace, not even thinking, being able to cut and get out of my breaks, I’m able to cut and get back to where I was before.”
With Verrett hurt two years ago, Casey Hayward emerged as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Trevor Williams filled in for Verrett in 2017, had an excellent season and looked the part of a starting NFL cornerback.
Add Desmond King, who was one of the top defensive rookies a season ago, and the Chargers have tons of options at corner.
A healthy Verrett only makes them better.
“His skill set, what he has, his speed, his athleticism, his change of direction, it is elite,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “Just to see him go through the individuals sometimes, you see a guy come back from an injury like that, it takes some time. I don’t see that right now. The way he’s working out, the way he’s practicing, he’s in a really good place right now.”
And Verrett seems back — a good place for the Chargers to have him.
“Just with the ACL, it’s a tough recovery,” Verrett said. “Some days you are going to have good days. Some days you are going to have bad days. Some days your leg’s not going to be firing the way that it used to be. That was pretty much my routine every day. Trying to get some strength back in my leg. With this past surgery that I had, I have been able to get the strength. I’ve been able to move.
“I like where I’m at.”