In an NFL era that glorifies the diva receiver, soft-spoken playmaker
Morgan is the consummate professional on the field, running crisp routes, making difficult catches in traffic and deftly blocking for teammates downfield.
When he signed with the Redskins, he was still in the process of recovering from a broken ankle that prematurely ended his 2011 season with the San Francisco 49ers.
After accelerating his rehab to be ready for the regular season, Morgan played in ever game, starting 15 games. He led the team in starts (15) and receptions (48), with a plate and seven screws in his ankle.
“This was my first year playing wide receiver that my hands and both my feet were hurting,” he told Redskins.com. “It was a rough year but it was worth it.”
Morgan, a native of Southeast D.C., credits his upbringing for giving him thick skin during difficult times, but said he never considered not suiting up on Sunday.
“It’s going to hurt regardless,” he said with a shrug. “It’s either going to hurt when I’m sitting still, sitting at home, it’s going to hurt going out there doing what you’ve got to do to help your team win.
“By any means necessary; that was my mentality.”
His injuries necessitated that he spend more time preparing his body to play, which meant starting earlier and ending later than most of his teammates.
“You’ve got to warm up for longer, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right cleats, make sure you take some Aleve. You have to do a lot of different things,” he explained. “Towards the end of the year they started taping my hands. You know how boxers get their hands all the way each knuckle, that’s how they started taping my hands.
“They even put little pads where the torn ligaments were. Then I would put my gloves on.”
Morgan has always worn gloves, but said the added padding made it feel like he was catching passes with someone else’s hands.
“It was weird. It just makes you concentrate that much more when the ball initially hits your hands; you’ve got to fingertip squeeze it,” he explained. “It took me back to my boxing days. You don’t want to have your hands taped liked a boxer playing receiver, but it helped with the pain.
“It was the only thing we could do.”
In 16 games last season, Morgan finished with 48 receptions for 510 yards and three touchdowns. Despite developing into a major part of the team's offensive attack, his production was not up to the goals he set for himself in training camp.
“My goal is getting all the way healthy and coming back this year.”
Joshua Morgan had several procedures this offseason to remove the plates and screws from his ankle, as well as to scope the ankle and repair the damaged tendons in his hands.
“[The screws] had to come out. It was painful. I couldn’t play with that pain the rest of my career,” he said, flexing his ankle at the thought. “I didn’t realize how much pressure or how much [the ankle injury would] affect everything else.
“They said that why my other foot started hurting because I was compensating so much, doing this and doing that. And I never thought I had torn ligaments in both my hands.”
Morgan said he hurt his hands in separate weeks, with the left hand coming in the first game of the season against New Orleans.
In Week 16 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Redskins quarterback
Morgan did not sit out either of the next two games, falling back on his mantra: win by any means necessary.
“We won games, but we just came up short in the end,” he said. “We didn’t get to where we wanted to get.”
Rather than playing in the Super Bowl, a goal that Morgan had at the beginning of the season, he got to watch his former teammates on the San Francisco 49ers represent the NFC for the title.
But rather than sulking at home, Morgan embraced the situation and set his heights higher for 2013.
“You’re always motivated to go to the Super Bowl every year. It’s always you’re dream,” he said. “That’s the only reason you wake up and play the game, honestly, to win that trophy.
“I’m definitely happy for all of them; no hard feelings about the 49ers. I chose to come home because not many people get to live this dream and play for that team they grow up rooting for.”