If for no other reason, Redskins backup center Erik Cook will go down in franchise history as the answer to a trivia question: Who did the team promote off the practice squad in December 2010 to take the place of suspended defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, halting Haynesworth’s troubled tenure in Washington?
“I guess it worked out that way,” Cook said with a laugh Tuesday after the team’s afternoon practice. “I just benefited on an opportunity.”
Cook, 25, played in six games last season, with two starts, one of them against Buffalo, the Redskins’ road opponent Thursday in the team’s preseason opener. That 2011 game against the Bills, played in Toronto, was memorable for Cook and his line mates for all the wrong reasons.
The Redskins, with linemen playing out of position or pushed into starting roles filling in for injured players, allowed a franchise-record 10 sacks in that 23-0 loss. Quarterback John Beck was relegated to ragdoll status and the team’s running backs squeezed out only 26 yards on 11 carries.
“It’s hard picking your quarterback up off the ground,” Cook said. “That’s something you don’t want to do. We’re going to try to keep [Robert Griffin III] and all the quarterbacks more clean than last time.”
The 6-foot-6, 308-pound Cook is listed as the second-string center behind seven-year veteran Will Montgomery (Centreville), and ahead of free agent Grant Garner, a rookie from Oklahoma State. Guard Josh LeRibeus also has played center during training camp.
Cook said he is getting more reps at center than he expected, in addition to some time at guard.
“I feel like I can do either,” said Cook, a 2010 seventh-round pick out of New Mexico, where he played almost every line position. “[Those starts last year] gave me the confidence I need. Maybe I got my pregame jitters out. I feel like a true vet out here now.”
Cook’s older brother Ryan is a second-string center for Miami. The two keep in touch at least once a week and trade intelligence on opposing defensive linemen during the season. Their teams played each other last November — a 20-9 Miami victory — but will not face each other this season.
Despite the intense curiosity around the league about Griffin, Cook said his brother has not yet asked what it’s like to block for him. Erik Cook would ask his brother what it was like to snap to Brett Favre when Ryan Cook and Favre were both in Minnesota.
“If he asks [about Griffin], I’m going to tell him he’s the real deal, you know?” Erik Cook said. “You’ve got a special guy back there. We just have to stay in front of the guys long enough to make him do his magic.”