Line Maneuvering Has Fabini on Guard

Longtime Tackle Takes Over for Injured Thomas

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 20, 2007; Page E05

As the shuffling continued along the offensive line yesterday, Washington Redskins guard Jason Fabini maintained the approach he has had since joining the team in March: focus and flexibility. After 10 seasons in the NFL, Fabini knows anything can happen, and his role with the Redskins has already changed.

Fabini, a longtime tackle with the New York Jets, was thrust into the starting lineup Monday against Philadelphia when right guard Randy Thomas tore his triceps. He continued to practice with the first unit yesterday while Thomas underwent surgery, and the team brought in veteran guards Keydrick Vincent and Rick DeMulling for tryouts and physicals, seeking depth for a unit that had already lost starting right tackle Jon Jansen for the season in the first game. After personnel meetings last night, the Redskins decided to sign DeMulling.

From left, Jason Fabini, Casey Rabach and Todd Wade are helping to keep intact what's left of an injury-riddled Redskins offensive line.
From left, Jason Fabini, Casey Rabach and Todd Wade are helping to keep intact what's left of an injury-riddled Redskins offensive line. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)

Thomas could recover in 10 to 12 weeks, so the Redskins did not put him on the injured reserve list for now, which would have ended his season (including playoffs).

"We haven't made any decisions," Coach Joe Gibbs said. "We have to wait and make a good decision based on what the doctors say."

Although Fabini got off to a rough start against the Eagles (he had consecutive false-start penalties on a key drive late in the first half), Redskins coaches said he rebounded well in the 20-12 victory. Fabini is just beginning to learn to play guard, and the Redskins decided to sign DeMulling with a bye week coming after Sunday's game against the New York Giants at FedEx Field.

Fabini doesn't know what to expect -- and that's what he expected.

"As a backup . . . you've got to have a starter's mentality no matter what," Fabini said. "You never know when you're going to be called upon to go into the game. This is what my role has been since I got here in training camp; that's what I'm ready for."

It appeared Fabini could have used more time to prepare before facing the Eagles. The consecutive false-start penalties backed the Redskins from Philadelphia's 6-yard line to the 16 with 14 seconds left in the half, but quarterback Jason Campbell completed a momentum-changing touchdown pass to tight end Chris Cooley.

Fabini maintained a low profile for the rest of the game, finishing strong and gaining the confidence of his teammates. The Redskins face another NFC East opponent this week, and Fabini is ready to do more, players said.

"He has played 'Monday Night Football' in New York City," said starting left guard Pete Kendall, Fabini's teammate with the Jets in the 2004 and 2005 seasons. "He's been in playoff games. He's been in the AFC championship game. I don't think the stage is going to be too big for Jason."

Said center Casey Rabach, "Everybody feels real comfortable with Jason being in there."

Injuries have forced the Redskins to make major adjustments to the right side of the line in the first two weeks of the season, replacing Jansen (who had season-ending surgery to repair his fractured fibula and dislocated right ankle) with backup Todd Wade and then turning to Fabini, 33, when Thomas was injured blocking against the Eagles.

After having a procedure to reattach his triceps to the bone, Thomas was considerably more upbeat than he was early Tuesday morning in the visitors' locker room at Lincoln Financial Field. His arm will be immobilized in a splint for six weeks, Thomas said.

The muscle was "pretty much torn off," he said. "That's the tough thing to revisit. I'm trying to look forward to the recovery and getting back and being smart with it."

Washington moved to improve its offensive line depth in the offseason, signing Wade and also bringing in Fabini, a fixture on the offensive line with the Jets. Fabini, 6 feet 7 and 309 pounds, started 89 straight games for the Jets from 1998 until 2005. Cut by the Jets after the 2005 season, Fabini signed with the Dallas Cowboys in 2006, rejoining Coach Bill Parcells, his first coach in New York.

But Fabini played sparingly, mainly on special teams, and hoped for an opportunity elsewhere. The Redskins signed him March 26, and his transition to a guard began. Fabini struggled at times in the preseason, trying to grasp the nuances of a new position.

"When you play tackle you say, 'Oh, guard, that's easy to do,' " he said. "Every position is tough on the offensive line. It's the individual battles all day . . . you have to win 'em. You play against guys who are a little stronger and shorter.

"But that's my role since I got here [playing inside]. I've been doing it for the last six weeks. It's something I've been getting comfortable with. I've been practicing there, getting reps, and getting better at it."

Thomas plans to offer a helping hand to Fabini, his teammate with the Jets from 1999 through 2002.

"I just want to be there on the side and give an extra push," Thomas said. "Any technique, things I can dish out, any advice on the types of players, anything I can do to just help."

Help from Rabach, who makes the line calls, could be crucial.

"There will be occasions, if it's a real funky look, I'll make sure he's got it. I double-check to make sure he understands" the blocking assignments, Rabach said. "But the good thing is, Jason has been working at guard. Jason is up to speed."

Staff writer Jason La Canfora contributed to this report.

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