RICHMOND — A routine running play to the right sparked a chain of violent collisions along the line during Monday afternoon’s Washington Redskins practice, and soon after, defensive end Kedric Golston and offensive lineman Josh LeRibeus were both lying on the turf. LeRibeus, whose helmet had been jarred off, stayed there. Golston eventually climbed to his feet and returned to the huddle. Then he glanced back as a medical team rushed to his teammate.
Golston has been there. An elbow injury forced him to miss time in 2010, and a torn anterior cruciate ligament derailed his season in 2011. But Golston is a survivor. He has managed to stick with the Redskins for eight seasons, becoming one of the organization’s longest tenured players. He earned a new three-year contract last spring after a solid 2012 campaign in which he played in all 16 games. And now, on the heels of defensive end Jarvis Jenkins’ four-game suspension for a violation of the league’s drug policy and Adam Carriker’s lingering injury, Golston is being counted on to make it through another training camp healthy and produce.
“That’s a blow,” Golston said of Jenkins’s suspension. “I’ve been around long enough to understand every situation and everything that kind of happens in this game. I always try to keep myself in the same position to go in there, whether I’m actually starting or [not].”
The re-signing of Golston was the last piece in retaining the entire defensive line rotation from 2012, and last year he showed the durability that had been missing the past two seasons. Golston has started in 43 career games in seven previous seasons for the Redskins, recording 117 tackles and seven sacks. Overall, he has played in 98, all with Washington. A sixth-round pick out of Georgia in 2006, he has spanned three eras, so to speak — Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and now Mike Shanahan — which naturally demands respect from his teammates.
“He brings a sort of a blue-collar type of mentality,” defensive end Brian Orakpo said. “He’s a guy that has been through so many changes, a guy who’s weathered the storm, a guy who works hard each and every day to make the coaches notice him. It’s really rare to see a guy last that long, coming from where he’s came from.”
Golston was listed as the second-string right defensive end behind Stephen Bowen when the first preseason depth chart was released Monday morning, but Jenkins was listed as the starter at the left end spot. For the first four games, at least, Golston is the leading candidate to move over to the left side and start. He has assumed most of the first-team snaps since Jenkins’s suspension was announced in late July.
During practice earlier this week, he was quick off the ball during pass rushing drills and drew a number of double-teams during 11-on-11. At 6 feet 4 and 318 pounds, he looks more like an offensive lineman in his No. 64 jersey. But he seemed to be in the middle of every first-team running play, banging heads, including the aforementioned scrum in which LeRibeus was shaken up.
Trent Williams, the Redskins’ all-pro left tackle in his fourth year, calls the 30-year-old Golston one of the most difficult players to block on the team because he’s “crafty.” It would be easy for Golston to rely on his powerful frame — but Williams said Golston is one of the few Redskins who make him a better offensive lineman because of his hand placement and intelligence.
“You learn the trenches more when you get older,” Williams said. “He knows all the tricks in the book. It’s hard for you to out-craft him. He uses his hands just as well as anyone on the team. He knows his time, and he always gets home.”
Statistically, Golston’s two best seasons were his rookie year in 2006 and his fourth year in 2009 — he combined for a modest 55 tackles and one fumble recovery in those seasons — but moreover, he played in all 16 games each of those campaigns. The first four games of 2013 will be the most important of his career, a chance to give the only organization he’s ever known a reprieve from the fallout of Jenkins’s suspension.
“I’ve been through a lot of ups and downs. I’ve been here my whole career,” Golston said. “I want to retire as a Redskin.”