Free safety Ryan Clark uses an umbrella to shade himself from the sun walks into the fans section to sign autographs after a morning practice during training camp. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

At age 34 and heading into his 13th NFL season, safety Ryan Clark was brought back to Washington by the Redskins’ front office this offseason in the twilight of his career.

The thinking was that Clark’s experience at free safety would compensate for any step he might have lost to age. Moreover, his leadership was viewed as an unqualified plus as a signal-caller for the defensive backfield and as a mentor to the young safeties the team intended to groom.

That thinking has proven prescient before Washington’s season opener.

With injury and the two-game suspension of starter Brandon Meriweather, the ranks of Washington’s safeties has winnowed, forcing second-year player Bacarri Rambo into a presumptive starting role despite inconsistent play as a rookie.

Coach Jay Gruden said he’ll make his final decision on whether Rambo is ready for the start at Houston on Friday or Saturday, based on how well he does in practice. Gruden’s other option is former Denver strong safety Duke Ihenacho, who was claimed off waivers over the weekend.

Rambo, 24, said he welcomes the opportunity to start alongside Clark, given his experience.

“Ryan was a great addition,” Rambo said. “He’s a great communicator, a great leader and is helping everybody stay on pace and know what’s coming.”

Rambo worked with the first team at strong safety during Wednesday’s walkthrough, but he’s slightly more comfortable at free safety because he has spent the most time there. He said he’s confident he can do the job wherever he lines up.

Clark, a free safety, said he’s happy to swap positions if it puts Rambo and the team in a better position to succeed against Houston.

“We’re going to move around, mix it up, do some things that he is comfortable,” Clark said. “I know, especially being a young player, that you want to be comfortable; that’s when you play fast and more physical. So for me, I’ll figure it out.”

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