By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 8, 2007
The head coach has started avoiding him around Redskins Park. The quarterback said he's weary of listening to him ask for the ball.
"I ain't been asking, I've been begging," fullback Mike Sellers said after his weeks of lobbying the Washington Redskins' decision makers paid off in a 34-3 rout of the Detroit Lions. "Seriously. I've really, literally been begging. Every time a coach passes by: 'Can I run this play? Can I run that play?' "
Despite a right heel injury that limited him during two practice sessions last week, Sellers finally ran those plays yesterday, and it resulted in a stat line unlike any in his eight-year NFL career.
He had five carries for 24 yards; both were career highs. He had a 15-yard run; that was a career long. He touched the ball eight times; that was a career high. He equaled his career high with three receptions and two touchdowns and probably set a personal record for postgame interviews.
"It's been a long time coming," he said to one wave of questioners. "It's nice to finally, finally get some chances to prove myself."
Sellers admitted his pestering likely had something to do with creating those chances. Quarterback Jason Campbell joked he was "tired of Mike grabbing and pulling on me, talking about, 'J, look at me, look at me in the flats.' "
Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said Sellers has been requesting more opportunities "from day one" this season; " Before day one," Sellers clarified.
Yesterday, those chances were scattered throughout Washington's runaway win. On first and goal shortly before halftime, he carried two defenders -- including linebacker Ernie Sims -- into the end zone to put his team ahead by two scores. In the fourth quarter, as Campbell scrambled, Sellers came back toward the ball to catch an eight-yard touchdown pass that put the game out of reach.
But teammates were left talking about his 24-yard catch-and-run in the second quarter, when he flattened Lions safety Kenoy Kennedy.
"We needed the touchdowns, and the touchdowns were big, but I think when he ran over Kenoy that really changed their defensive mentality," running back Clinton Portis said. "Like, these dudes on this team [are] crazy."
"It looked like something real vicious," said running back Rock Cartwright, who watched the hit from the sideline. "I wouldn't want to be the other guy on the other side."
Sellers is more commonly dishing out such hits as a lead blocker, not a ball carrier. But if he has a signature offensive move, teammates said, that was it: lowering the shoulder and approaching opponents with all the subtlety of a runaway dump truck.
"It's unbelievable," tight end Chris Cooley said. "I mean, he just puts his shoulder down, but what else can he do? He's too big to do anything else. It's not like he's going to make a move."
"Man, 280 pounds is not juking nobody," Sellers agreed. "It ain't a secret."
Such are the advantages of being a 284-pound fullback. Sellers outweighed both of the Lions' starting defensive ends by at least 10 pounds, and each of their starting linebackers by about 50.
Associate head coach-offense Al Saunders said there was no conscious decision to put the ball in Sellers's hands this week, but that "we're all lobbying for Mike [to get the ball], believe me."
"Just one man's opinion, but I think he's probably the most underrated football player on our team, certainly offensively," Saunders said. "He plays more roles than any other player in our offense, and it's probably the most difficult position. . . . He plays tight end, he plays fullback, he plays the slot inside, he plays wide receiver and he plays running back. That's five positions."
Sellers said he's happy to fill such varied roles, that he likes to do "all the dirty work." He said he wants to do "whatever involves hitting somebody," whether that's run blocking, pass blocking or carrying the ball. He said he's not asking to be a featured running back, but that he dearly wants to be involved in short-yardage situations. And he said he was glad his weeks of lobbying had finally paid off.
"I can't even count that high," he said with a laugh, when asked how many times he's spoken with Gibbs about expanding his role. "It's working out. Slowly and gradually, it's working out."