Reserve Linebacker Is Wired for Game

Antwaan Randle El celebrates the first touchdown of the preseason, a 20-yard pass from Jason Campbell.
Antwaan Randle El celebrates the first touchdown of the preseason, a 20-yard pass from Jason Campbell. (By Preston Keres -- The Washington Post)
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By Jason Reid and Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, August 4, 2008

CANTON, Ohio, Aug. 3 -- The Washington Redskins designated linebacker Matt Sinclair to wear a speaker in his helmet to communicate with coaches during Sunday's Hall of Fame game.

Sinclair, who played four games for the Redskins last season, mostly on special teams, was the first to try the newly allowed system because middle linebacker London Fletcher sat out the game against the Indianapolis Colts and top reserve H.B. Blades is sidelined after having arthroscopic knee surgery.

"It was good," Sinclair said of the system after the game. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache "is getting used to it. I'm getting used to it, so it's going to take a little while. We had a few problems on the first few series. Obviously, we're going to get better as preseason goes along."

Sinclair, who practiced with the device in his helmet all last week, was the only defensive player scheduled to wear it in the game, the team said before kickoff.

For the first time this season, each team is permitted to have two defensive players with speakers in their helmets, but only one player can be wired during the game. The second helmet, league officials said, would be kept in a box on the sideline.

Fletcher is not expected to play much until the Redskins kick off the regular season Sept. 4 in a nationally televised game against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium, and Blades could miss the entire preseason while recovering from surgery.

"I guess I'll be doing it for now, but we just have to see what happens," Sinclair said after practice last week. "I really haven't had a lot of time to get used to it, so I guess I'd have to use it for a while before I could really say what I think about it. I know the old system [hand signals] worked pretty well for a long time."

In Washington's intrasquad scrimmage July 26, Blache became frustrated while operating the new system and reverted to using hand signals. Sinclair also had a bad first experience with the small microphone fitted inside his helmet.

"It kept jabbing me and they had to take it out," he said. "Like I said, we just have to get a few things worked out with it."

Although Fletcher will be the primary player to wear a microphone when the regular season begins, the entire linebacker corps will be ready to assume the role in the preseason, linebacker Khary Campbell said.

"As linebackers, we try to pay attention to everything just in case we have times like now when guys are out," Campbell said. "You want to have guys who are versatile, who can step in and do different things when K.O. [linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti] and Coach Blache need us to. Matt has the helmet now and that's where it stands."

Jansen Can Breathe Easy

Starting right tackle Jon Jansen knew he would not play much Sunday -- few starters would take the field, especially those such as Jansen coming off of major surgery -- but just getting through his two series was a blessing.

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