The Washington Redskins have had to revamp their offensive line several times this season because of injury. Rookie guard Maurice Hurt, whom the team drafted in the seventh round out of Florida, has been pressed into action.
Hurt opened the season on the practice squad, but was called up to the 53-man roster in mid-October. After two weeks of inactivity, his first action came in a start against San Francisco’s rugged defense. He started the following game, missed the next with a knee injury and then returned to action last week at Seattle.
Hurt is going through growing pains, but coach Mike Shanahan says the 6-foot-3, 320-pounder has started to make improvements.
In today’s Gameday Q&A, Hurt discusses his learning experience in the NFL, his little-known first name and his late start in football.
What has this season been like for you, going from practice squad to starter and having to perform in a lot of pressure situations?
“It’s been a lot of work. You know, they expect a lot out of me, and I do my best to put a good product on the field. The guys are confident in me and believe I can get the job done, so I’m more or less just trying not to let them down, and trying not to let myself down and continue to work hard. It’s been a learning process. Learning a lot on the fly, and just trying to do my best to transfer everything I do in practice onto the field and learn from my mistakes.”
Was it a challenge adjusting from college football to the NFL in general and the Redskins’ zone-blocking scheme?
“We did a lot of zone blocking stuff in Florida, so some of the stuff does correlate, but it’s just the speed of the game, the intensity, the strength of the players. Coming from the SEC, you think you’re pretty much playing against the best people in the best conference of college, so you’d think it’d translate to the NFL, and it does some, but it’s still another level, so you have to take your game up more.”
When did you first notice the difference?
“I’ve been noticing it ever since training camp and then the preseason games, I noticed it again, but still, that first game I started, against San Francisco, and I’m seeing Justin Smith lined up across from me, you learn real fast that this is a different level.”
How do you compensate for that strength, quickness and experience disadvantage?
“Constantly trying to work on my technique and knowing my assignments. A lot of times, just in the scheme of things, it won’t really show if you know what you’re doing and you do what you’re supposed to do and use the right technique, and if you do that, it pretty much works out for you.”
Who do you lean on to help learn the ropes?
“Everybody. I question all the offensive linemen from Trent [Williams] to Jammal [Brown], to [Chris] Chester to Monty (Will Montgomery). Even Kory [Lichtensteiger], he’s now hurt, but he watches the games, and I’ll see him in the hallway and ask him questions. I’ll ask defensive players, like what I could do to stop this if I see something. I’m always picking people’s brains. I’m the type of person that if I have a question, I’m not scared at all to ask it. I pretty much pick everybody’s brains.”
So if you’re driving and you get lost, you don’t mind asking for directions?
“Oh, yeah, man. I’ll ask. That’s a fact. I’m horrible with directions. GPS shoutout. If I ain’t got a GPS and I’ve got to meet you somewhere, I’m not going to make it there.”
Last week Roy Helu referred to you as “Sparrow.” Is that a nickname?
[Breaks into a hearty laugh]: “That’s my first name. My name is Sparrow Maurice. I go by Maurice, but they saw my name on something, and ever since they found out, it’s been a joke of theirs to call me Sparrow. It’s cool, though.”
When did you start going by Maurice?
“My first name’s always been Sparrow, but my dad, I’m a second. So I always went by Maurice in school, so Sparrow never stuck. I look at my dad as Sparrow, and look at myself as Maurice.”
What do you do for fun away from the football field?
“I’m just like anybody else, man. I enjoy watching other sports, playing sports, playing video games, hanging out with my teammates, my family. Just the normal.”
When did you decide you wanted to try to become a pro football player?
“In high school, yeah. I didn’t start playing football until middle school. We had a weight limit when I was growing up, so I was always too big to play. So I never got to play. I always played basketball, baseball. So when I finally got to middle school, I played. I always knew I wanted to be a football player, it was just a matter of time, I guess.”
What was the weight limit?
“I don’t know, but I was well over it. The average 10-year-old weighs, what … 90? Then I was probably like 120.”
What position did they start you out at?
“I played all over the line. Tight end, whatever, nose guard, defensive end, in high school, you play everything, play both ways, little bit of everything, and I was on special teams and whatever else they wanted, too.”