Signed by the Redskins on the first day of training camp, first-year safety Jose Gumbs knew he had his work cut out for him.
Not only did he find himself at a crowded position that featured veterans Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, Jordan Pugh and DeJon Gomes and rookies Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas. But he also faced a disadvantage because unlike Rambo and Thomas, he hadn’t even had the offseason to spend learning the defense.
But Gumbs told himself to just approach his job audition the same way he did his college experience when he walked on at Monmouth and earned a roster spot, and eventually established himself as a starter.
“I just said, ‘Come in and work,’” said Gumbs, who as an undrafted rookie last season had two brief stints on Arizona and Kansas City’s practice squads. “That’s all I could do.”
After playing strong safety in college and on last season’s practice squads, Gumbs had to learn free safety for the Redskins – yet another challenge.
But after proving himself to be a fast learner and making a number of big hits on defense and special teams, Gumbs made Washington’s 53-man roster, beating out Gomes – Washington’s fifth-round pick in 2011 – for the final safety position. He is a member of a unit that includes Meriweather, Rambo, Doughty and Pugh.
The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Gumbs didn’t know how the Redskins would handle the procedure of informing players they had made the team. So, last Saturday, he woke up and waited for a call. His phone buzzed with text messages from friends and reporters, asking if he had made the team. But no call or message came in from the Redskins. Gumbs decided to show up at Redskins Park, and walked in with his head down, hoping to avoid confrontation from an official who would greet him at the front door and inform him he had been cut.
Gumbs made it past the receptionist and told himself, “Just make it to the locker room.” He walked down the steps, and entered the locker room, and no one approached him. He felt a bit of relief but still was a little unsettled. He decided he would dress for practice anyway, hoping no one grabbed him on the way out and told him to leave. After a nervous walk out to the field, Gumbs relaxed.
“I made it out to practice and said, ‘Wow, I guess I made it,’” he recalled.
Now, though, Gumbs wants more.
“I want to stay, not just say I made it,” He said. “I’ll keep working.”
Gumbs knows that with Rambo entrenched as the starting free safety, his best bet for playing time is to excel on special teams. He plans to do that, and will continue to prepare for whatever opportunities he gets on defense.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett believes Gumbs has a bright future, and that he will only improve as he becomes more familiar with the defense.
“He’s a guy that doesn’t even fully understand the defense yet,” Haslett said, “but he’s a guy that we thought was flying around, would make tackles, had good cover ability, was fearless, had pretty good football instinct – things that you don’t have, and we think will get better and better once he gets within the scheme. He came in late and I was really impressed with what he did the last couple of games. We kept all those guys based off their production in the preseason games. That’s why those games are important.”