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Familiar Sight in a Changing Sea
Washington Remains In Redskins' Linebacking Mix After Roster Shuffle

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 18, 2007

Linebacker Marcus Washington was in better spirits yesterday than he had been in days because he could do something he previously had been unable to do: participate in drills during the Washington Redskins' second week of voluntary workouts.

Washington, who is coming off of left hip surgery, had not been able to be a part of offseason workouts and won't be cleared to join full practices until minicamp in mid-June.

That good news for the team was dampened somewhat when Coach Joe Gibbs said running back Clinton Portis has tendinitis in his knee and that wide receiver Santana Moss injured his groin earlier in the week. Neither participated in workouts yesterday but Gibbs didn't appear concerned about the long-term affects of the injuries.

The changes among the Redskins' linebackers are not lost on Washington, the lone starting holdover from 2006. Weak-side linebacker Warrick Holdman is gone, having been dropped by the Redskins and signing a free agent contract with Denver. Lemar Marshall, who started the past two seasons at middle linebacker, is still with the Redskins, but the team signed London Fletcher from Buffalo as a free agent and he is expected to be the starter.

"I think we don't know where all that is going to end up. I talked to [Lemar] after the draft to give him my opinion of things," Gibbs said. "I think it's a matter of a guy earning his spot and working his way in there. I don't think there's anything where it is set in concrete."

Still, it is unlikely that the Redskins went out in the free agent market targeting Fletcher, 32, with the intention of making him a backup. Fletcher, who signed a $25 million contract after five years in Buffalo and four in St. Louis, has not missed a game in his career and has started the last 87 consecutive, and 112 of the last 113.

"Having the relationship that I've had with [assistant head coach -- defense] Gregg [Williams, in Buffalo] to know that I can suggest things to him," Fletcher said, "it's going to be an aggressive, attacking defense. It's very exciting, having the opportunity to make plays."

The only game Fletcher has not started during that streak was Nov. 5, 2000, against Carolina when the Rams opened the game in a nickel package.

"We've got new faces, and it's kind of hard to tell how good we're going to be, but we want to be good," Washington said. "We want to go out and dominate. All the linebackers are here and we're excited to see how we do."

Marshall, 30, who was second on the team in tackles to Sean Taylor last season and led the team in total tackles in 2005, will likely be a hybrid.

Marshall said he met with new linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, who told him that Washington, Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh would be the starters, but that Marshall would have an opportunity to compete for a first-string job.

"I'm not going to be disruptive or anything," Marshall said. "I'm just going to go out and work. This is what I've been doing my whole career, waiting for an opportunity."

Said Gibbs: "Lemar is real important to us. The good thing about Lemar is that he can play any spot. You get your numbers cut down, you have real flexibility at linebacker. That means a lot. He's played linebacker. He's smart. He's played [middle linebacker], probably the position that requires the most studying and making the most calls. So he becomes a very valuable guy. We'll see where it all shakes out."

Portis, 25, who is rehabbing from two surgeries, will continue his weightlifting program, but Gibbs was unsure when he would resume running. Portis consulted surgeon James Andrews Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala. NFL rules do not require teams to disclose which knee is injured.

"We've had setbacks," Gibbs said. "He's developed tendinitis. It cropped up the end of last week. He had soreness in his knee, but he described it as he could run and work out and the second day it was fine. But last week it bothered him past that so that's held us up."

Gibbs said Moss would also take it slower. "The main thing is to take care of it now," Gibbs said. "We don't [want to] have to think about this later." . . .

Gibbs said he was pleased watching Sean Taylor work with rookie safety LaRon Landry for the first time. "I think Sean is one of our leaders. He's someone we count on. Leadership in sports up here normally comes first with the guy being a productive great player, making plays. So Sean is every bit that. I think he's been one of our leaders since he's been here."

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