Brian Orakpo: ‘I don’t have to prove myself to anybody’


Brian Orakpo recorded 10 sacks last season. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo said that he doesn’t believe he needs to do anything further to prove himself worthy of a long-term contract.

The three-time Pro Bowl pass-rusher – who on Monday hosted his annual golf tournament, which benefits The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls – expressed confidence in his body of work. He believes Redskins officials know exactly what kind of player he is, and that they have a good understanding of his worth.

Orakpo this offseason was set to become a free agent, but the Redskins used the franchise tag to retain his services and avoid losing him. Orakpo could have opted not to sign the franchise tag contract – a one-year deal that will pay him roughly $11.455 million – and hold out while letting his representatives continue to negotiate with Washington for a multi-year deal.

But he signed his deal shortly after Washington used that designation. He said that he did so because he didn’t want to become a distraction for his teammates.

The Redskins can still negotiate toward a long-term deal with Orakpo, and the linebacker has expressed a desire that they reach an agreement in the coming weeks or months. But Coach Jay Gruden said in March that he is inclined to let Orakpo – who in 2013 recorded his second double-digit sack campaign, after missing much of the 2012 season because of injury – play out the franchise tag so the team can further evaluate him before awarding him a lucrative contract.

“We’d like to get him here for as many years as we can, but right now I wouldn’t mind letting him play out this franchise tag and see what happens,” Gruden said at the league meetings in Orlando on March 26. “He’s a talented player. I think he can do a little bit better. [We] can ask more of him where he could be more productive as far as getting his hand down and rushing more instead of dropping [into pass coverage] quite so much. We have high hopes for Brian and whether the deal gets done or not, we know he’ll be a big part of our success [in 2014].”

Orakpo said on Monday that nothing has changed with his status. Asked if he is comfortable playing out the season on the franchise tag, Orakpo said, “I don’t know. I wouldn’t say comfortable. I will obviously still want something done. Hopefully sooner than later because I just don’t want to be in a situation where, I don’t know, this stuff lingers throughout the season and is an issue. Hopefully my best interest is their best interest and we get something done. But who knows? It is a business and I have to look out for myself as well. I came into this offseason. I didn’t want any distractions. We dealt with that. Y’all guys are tired of that from last season. I know I am. I wanted to be on the positive side and be here for my teammates, which is the most important thing.”

Orakpo bristled at the notion that he needs to show the Redskins more to convince them that he deserves a big pay day.

“Oh, I’ve got to prove myself again, huh? I don’t have to prove myself to anybody. I’m already proven in this league. Like I said, I’m here. I have a great relationship with Coach Gruden. I have a great relationship with Bruce Allen, and I have a great relationship with Mr. Snyder, and I’m here. It is what it is. I signed my franchise tag. I’m here. So, play it out, whatever the case may be, I still want something long-term. But I’m not going to be in a situation where I’m holding out, this and that stuff and I’m a distraction and all that comes with it. But I don’t need to prove anything to nobody. That goes for fans, that goes for media, anybody. I’m well proven in this league, and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody.”

The Redskins this season plan to tweak their defense and place a higher emphasis on rushing the quarterback. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has said that he plans to turn his linebackers loose, and alleviate some of their pass-coverage duties so they can concentrate on getting into the backfield with greater frequency.

Orakpo and his teammates have begun to learn what the future plans entail during classroom sessions and on Tuesday hit the field for their first minicamp. He expressed encouragement about the plans, and he has optimism that the changes could lead to a productive 2014 campaign.

“The scheme, and you can tweak some stuff and things of that nature, and that’s going to be key to this season,” Orkapo said. “Our defense, what Coach Haslett has emphasized is for Ryan and myself especially, is to get after it. This defense is built around us. This is the first time these guys have expressed it to me in the four years I’ve been around Haslett. I need to go into the season with that type of mentality. This defense is built to ride around me, myself and Kerrigan and to create and make everybody else’s job a lot easier, and that’s what we’re going to get into.”

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · April 28

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