ASHBURN, Va. - At 6 feet 5 and 303 pounds, Chris Samuels is not your prototypical wide receiver.
But that's what the burly Washington Redskins offensive tackle was - back in the eighth grade.
About five inches and 150 pounds ago, Samuels was a wide receiver for his middle school team. The next year at John Shaw High School in Mobile, Ala., he switched to tight end, backup quarterback and finally tackle.
Samuels is still such a fan of the wide receiver position that his role model is a certain Oakland Raider.
"I grew up a big Jerry Rice fan, and I'm still a Jerry Rice fan to this day," Samuels, 25, said. "He's just an awesome guy with a lot of talent, and he's the best at his position to ever play the game."
Instead of catching footballs, Samuels is making sure that defenders don't get to the one in his quarterback's hands. Samuels has been Washington's left tackle since the team made him the No. 3 pick in the 2000 draft.
He has started every game since his rookie season - a span of 38 consecutive starts - and was selected to last season's Pro Bowl.
Along with right tackle Jon Jansen, Samuels has been regarded as one of the anchors for a questionable offensive line.
But this season has been a major test of Samuels' health and patience.
He has battled a sprained left ankle, a bruised thigh, a strained groin muscle, a shoulder injury and a re-aggravation of the ankle sprain.
Samuels is not expected to play on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at FedEx Field at 8:30 p.m.
Samuels has been less than 100 percent this season and defensive ends Andre Carter of San Francisco and Darren Howard of the Saints took advantage by beating Samuels for two sacks each.
Last season, he went 13 weeks before allowing his first sack.
But Samuels has been adamant about not attributing his performances to his health, saying only that he needs to raise his level of play.
"I'm just playing through pain here and there, but I really don't want to make excuses," he said. "If the guy beats me, he just beats me. That's the bottom line."
Said Jansen: "Chris has done a terrific job. He's had to deal with a lot of injuries and sickness. He's playing as well as anybody up front."
Last week, Samuels had to walk off the field during the third quarter of a 30-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers when he slammed into a Green Bay linebacker and fell to the grass with a stinger to his shoulder.
That injury - combined with tweaking that sprained ankle in the first quarter - convinced team trainers to keep Samuels on the bench for the rest of the game. It was a decision that brought tears to his eyes.
"I was upset," Samuels recalled. "I wanted to be in there. I thought we had a chance to win that game at that point. It was disappointing that I couldn't be in there."
It's that type of determination that has made offensive line coach Kim Helton one of Samuels' admirers.
"You can't get angry at a man that's competing for you and knowing that he's dragging one leg just because out of 47 snaps, he gives up two sacks," Helton said. "You've got to say to yourself, `If this man was well, he would've been successful 47 times.' All you can do is hug him around the neck, tell him thanks for the effort, and go on down the road."
For offensive tackles - and linemen in general - attention usually comes only when mistakes have been made. Samuels is well aware of this and said he has grown to endure the added scrutiny.
"You're not in a glamorous position where you get to score the touchdowns, throw the touchdowns, and get your name in the paper," he said. "You've just got to have a lot of heart to go out there, do your job, and at the end of the game have that self-satisfaction that you helped your team win."