Redskins' Landry Longs for a Return to Health, and a Return to Action

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By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 12, 2008

LaRon Landry needed a break. Landry, the Washington Redskins' second-year safety, was well into his rehab work late last week at Redskins Park when his strained left hamstring tightened again.

As the Redskins competed in 11-on-11 drills, Landry watched from the sideline, grimacing in pain and frustrated about his situation. He had planned to return to the lineup Saturday in Washington's preseason home opener against the Buffalo Bills, but plans have a way of changing.

"It just wasn't happening," Landry said of playing in Washington's 17-14 victory over Buffalo. "With the way it was feeling, with the way I was feeling mentally, I knew I just wasn't there, you know? I don't know how long it's going to be [before he plays in a preseason game], but I know I've got to get out there to be ready to do what I do when the season starts."

The Redskins are exercising caution with Landry, who assumed more responsibility in the pass defense late last season after moving to free safety following the death of Sean Taylor in November. Like Taylor, Landry has the talent to become a Pro Bowl player, Redskins coaches said, and his performance will be among the keys to the secondary's success this season. After only one year in the NFL, however, Landry still is adjusting to the scrutiny that accompanies his high profile on Washington's defense.

"I feel comfortable back there, I feel confident back there, I feel like whatever they [Redskins coaches] ask me to do, I can do," Landry said. "I know the defense in and out, but each day I learn different things about it, little things, so I can help the younger guys and I'm on the same page as the veterans. It's good."

Landry, who was injured during drills early in training camp, had hoped to resume full participation in practice yesterday but again was restricted to individual work. With the Redskins facing the New York Jets on Saturday at Giants Stadium, it is still too early to tell whether Landry will play, he said, "but I'm trying to get back out there as soon as I can. I've got to get into one of these" last three preseason games to be ready when the Redskins kick off the regular season schedule Sept. 4 against the New York Giants at Giants Stadium.

Landry estimated he would need to play the equivalent of four full quarters to be able to start the opener, and safeties coach Steve Jackson figures Landry would need at least that amount of time. "There are certain things that you really don't see, a lot of nuances in what LaRon does, that he needs to play to get the timing back on some things."

As a rookie, Landry, the sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft, finished third on the team with 97 tackles, including 62 unassisted, according to the Redskins' statistics. He also had 1.5 sacks.

Landry, who played both safety positions as an all-American at Louisiana State, began last season at strong safety. In Taylor and Landry, the Redskins envisioned having the league's top safety tandem for many years. After Taylor sprained his right knee during a 33-25 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 10, backups Reed Doughty and Pierson Prioleau split time at free safety in a 28-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 11.

Without Taylor, the anchor of Washington's base cover-2 defense, the secondary gave up many big plays in the fourth quarter of the loss to Philadelphia and throughout the game at Dallas. Despite consecutive shaky performances, coaches figured they could hold things together with Doughty and Prioleau until Taylor returned. And then, of course, he died Nov. 27.

Gregg Williams, then the assistant head coach-defense, shook up the secondary for the remainder of the season, putting Doughty at strong safety and moving Landry to Taylor's position. The adjustment worked, with Landry's play deep in coverage among the keys to a four-game winning streak that resulted in a playoff berth.

"I like roaming back there [and] just flying around sideline to sideline," Landry said. "I like showing different disguises and everything, showing my true talent, and my ability to do what I can do. But I also like strong safety."

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