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Reserve Linebacker Is Wired for Game

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.

The last time Jansen played at tiny Fawcett Stadium he underwent the first major blow to his career.

Jansen ruptured his Achilles' tendon on the opening drive of the 2004 preseason, against Denver in the Hall of Fame game. The injury ended a streak in which he had started all 80 games of his NFL career dating from being drafted in the second round by the Redskins in 1999.

Jansen missed all of the 2004 season and a total of 32 games in the past four seasons, including all but one in 2007, when he broke his leg in the season opener. He blocked out thoughts of his Achilles' injury as he approached the game.

"If you go into a game worried about getting hurt, or you're apprehensive, then there's a chance you're setting yourself up to get hurt," Jansen said.

Nonetheless, Jansen was taking every precaution. Fawcett Stadium has an artificial surface -- Field Turf -- that is used in many NFL facilities, but Jansen said, "I'm not sure exactly how it would compare to the Field Turf at an NFL stadium."

Jansen was thorough during the pregame walkthrough, making sure he had on the best possible footwear for the surface.

Short Routes

As expected, several Redskins were either given the game off or were held out because of injuries. Those who didn't play: wide receivers Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Anthony Mix; cornerback Carlos Rogers, running backs Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts; safety LaRon Landry, linebackers Rocky McIntosh, Rian Wallace, Fletcher and Blades; defensive ends Jason Taylor, Erasmus James, Chris Wilson and Andre Carter; and defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery. . . .

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder chatted on the field before the game with Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks, who was a finalist to replace Joe Gibbs as Washington's head coach. The men smiled and laughed, and Snyder extended a hearty handshake with Meeks at the end of the five-minute conversation. . . .

The Redskins won in their previous four appearances in the Hall of Fame game, including a 20-17 victory over Denver in 2004. . . . The players will be off Monday and resume practice Tuesday.

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