Bryan Kehl dropped two potential interceptions earlier in the preseason and wasn’t going to let that happen again. He caught 200 balls out of a JUGS machine from the second one until Wednesday.
In the Washington Redskins’ preseason finale, Kehl didn’t drop the ball.
“It paid off in a big way,” he said.
The linebacker intercepted Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brett Ratliff on Wednesday night as part of an impressive performance that included six tackles and a sack. For a guy on the bubble of making the Redskins’ roster, there wasn’t much more he could do.
“My thoughts coming into the game was lay it out there on the line, let the chips fall where they fall. And I think I did that,” Kehl said. “I laid it all out there, I gave everything I had. And they got tough decisions to make, and what happens happens. I’m at peace with the way I played tonight and what I put out there.”
Kehl’s most memorable play of the night was the fourth-quarter interception and 43-yard return. The 28-year-old’s calf cramped up a couple of plays before and then again when he picked off Ratliff’s pass.
“Right before I broke to get that ball, it cramped. And so I caught it and I got up, and I just kind of had a hitch in my giddy-up,” he said. “I couldn’t quite turn on the after-burners. But I’m excited to watch it and see. I think it was just that one guy I had to beat. It was a good return, I think, for a defensive guy.”
Naturally he would have liked to score the touchdown and put even more of an imprint on coaches’ minds with the Redskins required to cut down to the 53-man roster by the end of Friday.
If he made the decisions, Kehl said he’d be a four-year starter. He doesn’t, but he was all smiles about his preseason as a whole.
“I’m pleased with the body of work, from the start of camp, OTAs, everything what I put out there. I think I’ve shown that I can contribute, defense and special teams especially,” Kehl said. “We’ll see what happens. But I’m pleased and definitely at peace with what I put out there.”
Pleased not just with the interception, sack and tackles – all statistics he was aiming for – Kehl figures his abilities on special teams should help his case to make the Redskins.
“I don’t know how much they value that, but I think it should help. Unbiased, I look at myself as good a special teamer as there is out there,” he said. “I know that I can help them out on special teams. Will they value that? I don’t know. I hope they do, and I hope that maybe that’s the deciding factor. Maybe it’s not, I don’t know.”
Kehl conceded that’ it’s a numbers game at linebacker. But he did what he could Wednesday night to provide a lasting memory.
“Come what may, you can’t control everything, but you can control your effort and that’s really my whole thing, coming into the game today was I was just going to lay it out there,” the BYU product said. “Just make these coaches know that win, loss, draw, I’m going to be going a hundred miles an hour. That was my goal tonight, and I did that.”
Cuts are looming, though, and Kehl expects some of the 22 players cut to get picked up by another NFL team. That could be him, but he’d rather just make the Redskins and be done with it.
But he’s in the dark.
“This is my fifth year; I’ve never been so uncertain as I am right now. I really don’t know what they’re going to do. … I’ve never been on a linebacker corps that’s so talented,” Kehl said. “Also I’ve never been in a defense that I’ve loved so much. So I’ve never wanted to make a team as much as I want to make this one, and I’ve never been as uncertain as I am right now.
“That being said, I’m confident and hopeful and very pleased with what I put out there, and I hope they make a good decision. I know that I can help the football team.”