Healthy again, Daniels can put hurt on ex-team

New Redskin faces Bears after leaving Chicago due to contract dispute

Pro Football

September 09, 2005|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Phillip Daniels said all the right things.

The Washington Redskins defensive end said he does not bear a grudge against the Chicago Bears, the Redskins' season-opening opponent Sunday at 1 p.m. at FedEx Field. He's happy to be in Washington, and he's excited about trying to forget the injury-filled season he endured last year.

But at times, Daniels' voice bristled and the emotion that he tried to repress was unmistakable as he recounted his departure from the Bears in 2004.

"They asked me to take a million dollar pay cut," Daniels said. "They wanted me to take it on my roster bonus. I told them to take it off my season salary, and they didn't want to do it."

After a phone conversation between Daniels and new Bears coach Lovie Smith didn't produce a resolution, the organization released Daniels, who would have made $3 million for the 2004 season. Greg Blache, the defensive coordinator who moved from Chicago to Washington, called Daniels, and he agreed to a five-year, $11 million contract that included a $3 million bonus.

The 6-foot-5, 290-pound end was tabbed as the pass-rush specialist Washington needed on defense. Since 1997, the Redskins have had just three players finish the season with double-digit sack totals.

But Daniels, who had nine sacks in a season twice, strained his groin muscle and was sidelined for seven of the first 12 games. A dislocated wrist in a Dec. 5 game against the New York Giants ended his season.

For a player who had missed just nine games in eight years with Chicago and the Seattle Seahawks, the injuries were devastating.

"It was rough going through that," said Daniels, who underwent heated laser treatment on his groin and wrist, took up Pilates to strengthen the groin muscles, and worked on his cardiovascular training. "I'm just happy that I did all the right things this offseason to get my body strong."

Daniels, a competitive power lifter, has cut out chips and cake from his diet and usually eats fish or chicken. Some of his teammates have a difficult time believing he is 32.

"Guys don't think I'm that old," Daniels said. "They always think I'm 20-something. ... This is my 10th season. I just take care of myself. That's the main thing. If you take care of yourself, you'll play a long time."

Gregg Williams, the assistant head coach in charge of defense, said he is anxious to see Daniels play a full season.

"We think we got another free agent this year because last year he didn't get a chance to play as much as we wanted him to play," Williams said. "We were different defensively when he played. We were much stronger up front, and we were pretty strong and pretty dominant in that front seven. But he's got a very strong presence."

Smith praised Daniels, saying, "Phillip's a good football player, and we were trying to get as many good players on our roster as we could. But it didn't work out that way, and I'm just glad that he was able to go to another place that can use his talents."

NOTES: Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will pay $37,000 to Montgomery County as part of a settlement over his cutting of mature trees from the grounds of his Potomac mansion without county permission, according to an agreement reached last month. ... A judge has delayed the trial of safety Sean Taylor on aggravated-assault charges until Oct. 24. The trial had been scheduled to begin Monday.

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