'Skins' Washington gets holiday treat

Linebacker is `surprised' to learn he'll be heading to Hawaii for Pro Bowl

Pro Football

December 24, 2004|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - When Washington Redskins linebacker Marcus Washington entered the media room at Redskins Park and saw a horde of TV cameras and tape recorders waiting for him, he almost did a double-take.

"Is this for me?" he asked.

Indeed it was. Washington was greeted with that reception as he was the only Redskin selected to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday.

Washington joins Atlanta's Keith Brooking, Carolina's Dan Morgan, Philadelphia's Jeremiah Trotter and Tampa Bay's Derrick Brooks as the NFC linebackers.

Washington, a fifth-year pro who was signed as a free agent from the Indianapolis Colts during the offseason, is second on the team in tackles with 110 and sacks with 3.5 and has also forced one fumble and recovered another in 14 starts.

Still, as part of a group that includes defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, cornerbacks Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs and safety Sean Taylor, Washington admitted that he never thought he would get the nod to be invited to his first Pro Bowl.

"It was very surprising," the 6-foot-3, 247-pound linebacker said. "I know I've been having one of my better years, but you just never know with that stuff."

Washington, 27, was one of the Redskins' more celebrated free-agent acquisitions during the offseason. Washington, who missed just one game in four seasons because of a knee injury with the Colts, was signed to a six-year deal worth $24 million that included a $7 million signing bonus.

Washington, who had a career-high eight sacks in 2001, has thrived in assistant coach Gregg Williams' aggressive scheme, which lines up the linebacker on either end to pressure the quarterback.

"I think every linebacker loves to do that," said Washington, who is nine tackles away from his career high of 119 set in 2001 with Indianapolis. "I've been put in a position to make plays this year. Coach Williams has been very aggressive with me and has just kind of allowed me to play up to my abilities."

Williams said Washington has been a better player than the coach anticipated.

"Here's a guy that people said had very limited coverage ability. He covers fine," Williams said. "He blitzes well, he plays the run well, he's got decent hands. So he's a very versatile linebacker that plays high-octane and [with] high effort, and he was recognized."

Washington will represent a defensive unit that is ranked No. 2 in the league in yards allowed, but didn't send more players to the Pro Bowl.

Taylor, a rookie who was drafted fifth overall last April and is tied for the team lead in interceptions (four), was named a first alternate. Pierce (a team-high 136 tackles) and Smoot (a team-leading 12 pass deflections) were chosen second alternates, while Springs (four interceptions) and Griffin (a team-high five sacks) were selected as third and fourth alternates, respectively.

Washington said his one regret is not being able to fly to Honolulu - the site of the Pro Bowl - with his teammates.

"A lot of times, they made my job easy," Washington said. "Cornelius gets back in there and is blowing a play up, and the [running] back comes right to me. Antonio gets guys lined up and puts guys in position to make plays. ... I have great teammates on that side of the ball."

Washington's play this season caught the attention of Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, who acknowledged voting for him.

"He's played well," Parcells said before declining to discuss any other votes he cast. "I just think he's done a good job for them."

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