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AP: Redskins' Samuels Wants to Prove His Worth

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Old 08-17-2005, 10:25 PM   #1
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AP: Redskins' Samuels Wants to Prove His Worth

Redskins' Samuels Wants to Prove His Worth
AP Sports Writer

August 17, 2005, 7:04 PM CDT

ASHBURN, Va. -- Not long after signing a new contract with a team-record $15.75 million signing bonus in March, Washington Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels was back in the training room.

"Believe it or not, he was here seven days a week," assistant coach Joe Bugel said. "We'd come in on Sundays, and he'd be on that treadmill. And he'd say, 'I'm going to show you, coach. I deserve that money.'"

A nice, long vacation might have been more timely, or even a gaudy shopping spree, but it's not Samuels' style to take it easy or be extravagant. Teammates joke that his money is sitting somewhere under a mattress, that he's determined to act as if it has no effect on him.

"They signed me to a big deal," Samuels said. "I told them then and there I'm not going to let them down."

Only right tackle Jon Jansen was been with the Redskins longer than Samuels, who was chosen back-to-back with linebacker LaVar Arrington in the first round of the 2000 draft. The former Alabama star was an opening day starter his rookie year and made the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2002, and it seemed he and Jansen were settling in to become one of the league's top set of bookends for the next decade or so.

But Samuels' confidence started to slip during two seasons under head coach Steve Spurrier and offensive line coach Kim Helton. Nagging injuries started to catch up with him, too. During 2003, he would settle into his stance wondering whether he could stop the defensive linemen in front of him, a dangerous sort of self-doubt that can end a career in a hurry.

"It was a little bit of everything," Samuels said. "I have to say that a little bit falls on me, then the injuries, then the coaching. All of those things factor in."

A change in coaches turned Samuels' game around. Spurrier was replaced last year by Joe Gibbs, who in turn replaced Helton with Bugel.

"He was right on time for me when he came in," Samuels said. "I was facing a contract year, came off a year when I didn't play all that well. The first thing when he came in, he said, 'Look at your pass protection, you're dropping your head on it.'

"He broke that habit. He stayed on me since day one. He's still on me when I mess up and drop my hand. I really love him. If I get the job done but I'm blocking a guy with bad technique, he's not going to let that slide. He's going to coach me up. That's what I need to make me a complete player."

By the start of last season, Samuels was back at the top of his game. He kept his man off the quarterback week after week, yet was overlooked for the Pro Bowl as the Redskins' record sank to 6-10.

It was perfect timing money-wise. Samuels' contract had to be renegotiated during the offseason for salary cap purposes. He ended up with the big bonus as part of a seven-year, $47 million deal.

"He is one of the most enjoyable players to coach because he doesn't mind being criticized," Bugel said. "He wants to be told what he's doing wrong. He doesn't want you to be his friend. He wants you to be his coach."

But there's still room for improvement. The Redskins play Cincinnati on Friday, and Samuels noticed a trouble spot this week when he reviewed the tape of last year's game against the Bengals.

"One particular move that the defensive lineman likes to use on me -- I struggled with it," said Samuels, who understandably didn't want to go into detail with the game coming up. "I've got to focus on stopping that, and then I think my game will be pretty much unstoppable."

Notes:@ S Matt Bowen went down during Wednesday's practice with a mild MCL sprain in his right knee and is day to day. Bowen tore the ACL in the same knee last year and missed most of the season. ... RB Clinton Portis has been bothered by a sore elbow, and he banged it again during practice. He might be held out of Friday's game as a precaution. ... WR Taylor Jacobs' sprained big left toe is a bigger concern that originally thought. He'll miss his second exhibition game Friday and might not return to practice for another week or two. ... One day after signing S Eric Brown, the Redskins released him. They then signed S Siddeeq Shabazz, who has played two seasons with Oakland and Atlanta. DL Melvin Williams was also cut.
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