Rocky's Road Gets Smoother

Redskins' McIntosh Is Upbeat After Playing for First Time Since Knee Surgery

The Washington Post's Jason Reid chats with backup rookie quarterback Colt Brennan about his preseason success. Video by Jason Reid/The Washington PostPhotos: The Washington Post, AP, GettyEditor: Jonathan Forsythe/
By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hoping to elude reporters the other day at Redskins Park, weak-side linebacker Rocky McIntosh devised a plan. As the team walked off the field after practice, McIntosh and linebacker Khary Campbell briefly disappeared behind a tent in which trainers tend to injured players.

McIntosh and Campbell switched jerseys (McIntosh wears No. 52 and Campbell has No. 50), and McIntosh reemerged on the right side of the tent and attempted to blend in with the crowd headed toward the locker room. Although some of McIntosh's pursuers were momentarily duped, Zack Bolno, the Redskins' executive director of communications, and reporters who cover the team daily were not fooled. Perhaps glasses and a fake nose and mustache would have worked better.

"I was Khary for a little minute but you guys got me," said McIntosh, his face creased by a wide grin. "I've got to find something else for you."

McIntosh has reason to be in a playful mood these days. He returned to the lineup last week for the first time since a serious knee injury cut short his 2007 season, starting in the Redskins' 13-10 preseason victory over the New York Jets on Saturday at Giants Stadium.

Being back in the stadium in which he tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee caused some uncomfortable moments on the field during pregame warmups. Once the game began, it was like old times for McIntosh, the Redskins said, and he could take another big step Saturday against the Carolina Panthers.

Redskins starters are expected to play most of the first half at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, as Coach Jim Zorn plans to use the game as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. McIntosh, who is from Gaffney, S.C., about 50 miles from Charlotte, proved he was ready while joining the first-team defense for a portion of the Jets' two first-quarter possessions.

McIntosh is on track to be part of the opening lineup when Washington and the New York Giants kick off the NFL's regular season Sept. 4 at Giants Stadium, and the Redskins said that is good news for them.

"He was glad to be out there [against the Jets] and we were happy to have him back," strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington said. "He was flyin' around like he was having a good time doing it, flyin' to the ball and having fun, and that's the Rocky we all know."

Against the Jets, McIntosh, entering his third NFL season, and fourth-year cornerback Carlos Rogers, who also was making his preseason debut after having reconstructive knee surgery last season, were finally back in the mix against an opponent. The Redskins have exercised caution with the talented young players, limiting their exposure in contact drills since the beginning of training camp.

McIntosh and Rogers impressed at times early in camp when the first-team offense and first-team defense competed in 11-on-11 drills, but, on the recommendation of Washington's medical staff, Zorn and Vinny Cerrato, the team's executive vice president of football operations, took a wait-and-see approach. And even when Cerrato and Zorn removed the handcuffs last week, McIntosh and Rogers were closely monitored in their short stints against the Jets.

On Dec. 16, McIntosh tore the ligaments in his left knee in a 22-10 victory over the Giants at Giants Stadium. He had surgery shortly after the swelling subsided and then began the long recovery process.

McIntosh did not know how he would react to his return to the field on which the injury occurred. But he figured he would experience a range of emotions "just being back there," he said. "When I was out there in warmups, I thought about it a little, but you can't hold on to nothing like that. Just move on. Once it was game time there was no worrying about your leg.

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