“He’s got what, one day of work?” said defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. “He’s got a lot of catching up to do.”
The Redskins play their first preseason game next Friday against Pittsburgh, and so far, Kerrigan’s NFL education has come mostly in film sessions, in meeting rooms and by watching his teammates practice.
“There’s always a big difference in doing it and watching it,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s biting at the bit to get out there. He wants to do things. Just afraid if we put him out there too quick, we’re going to set him back.”
Shanahan said Wednesday he might not see his rookie linebacker fully participate in practice until this weekend.
Despite his injury, Kerrigan is fully invested in making the adjustment from a defensive end in Purdue’s 4-3 scheme to an outside linebacker in the Redskins’ 3-4. When he met with coaches during the NFL draft, they told him of their plans and gave him a playbook, some 300 pages that detailed foreign formations and new techniques.
“It was pretty much a daily thing,” Kerrigan said of his offseason studies. “I would look it over, or look over a different install each day and try to learn that.”
His education has accelerated since he reported to Redskins Park last week. While his knee heals, Kerrigan watches teammates run the plays. It doesn’t hurt that he has a pretty knowledgeable tutor. Brian Orakpo also was a first-round pick and also was asked to convert from defensive end to linebacker. He reached the Pro Bowl in each of his first two years in the league.
“What I learned my first year, I try to give that to him,” Orakpo said. “He’s learning as we go on, but he has to learn on the fly.”
The lockout kept Kerrigan from offseason workouts, organized team activities, minicamps and months of access to coaches and film. Instead, he gets a crash course that leaves him little time to catch his breath. Kerrigan is expected to start Week 1 opposite Orakpo, which means he has barely a month to learn all the intricacies of playing linebacker — standing up, dropping into coverage, reading a quarterback, blitzing, moving laterally.
His job as a defensive end at Purdue: When the ball was snapped, race forward.
“From what I seen so far, he’s a quick learner, man,” Orakpo said. “He learns on the fly. He’s very smart, an intelligent kid, humble and hard-working. . . . I seen him take notes. He’s asking questions all the time in the meeting rooms.