- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 6, 2000

Darrell Green became a Redskin in April 1983, less than three months after the team won its first Super Bowl. Nearly 17 years later, Green is still a starter as Washington returns to the playoffs Saturday against the Detroit Lions.
"People say I'm not playing like a 40-year-old cornerback, but no one had ever seen a 40-year-old play cornerback before," said Green, who will reach that milestone Feb. 15. "I've had a good year. My job is to be productive. I've maintained a high level of responsibility. I'm still excited. I'm still productive."
Green won't say for sure, but he's strongly considering returning for an 18th Redskins season. Green, who has three years left on his contract, knows that his Learning Center and Youth Life Foundation benefit from his being a Redskin.
"It makes sense that I take advantage of a position that I'll never be in again," Green said. "The foundation has been economically successful because of who I am. We're planning to open a training center for adults next month. Next summer we'll open another learning center, and then two more. The key is to get the [$20 million] endowment built up for the training center and the four learning centers to be able to maintain themselves. That's my goal."
Green went to the playoffs seven times and won two Super Bowl rings during his first decade in Washington. But now that he has helped the Redskins get back to the playoffs, he doesn't feel he has put the exclamation point on what is surely a Hall of Fame career.
"It's great to be back in the playoffs after all these years, but winning or losing isn't going to cause me to retire," Green said. "I have a plan that is a lot bigger than that. It has to do with my ministry, my outreach to the community. It has to do with economics. It has to do with me fulfilling what I think I have in terms of talent and time.
"I know where I'm heading. I want to play, and I know how long I want to play. [My announced goal of] Pro Bowl 2000 was not a period on my career. It was a goal. I'm not your typical athlete. I don't play for the money. I've been a free agent [several] times, and I have never visited another team. I've always wanted to be in Washington. I have a very balanced focus about what I'm trying to accomplish in life."
That focus has allowed Green to see beyond football. He's more excited about reaching his impending birthday as a man than as a football player because he wasn't so sure he would make 40.
Green lost two of his closest friends to tragedy before he ever played an NFL snap. Cornell Green, his buddy from sixth grade through college, was killed in a Labor Day Weekend car accident while they were playing for Texas A&I.; Darrell was supposed to be in the car, but he had missed the ride back home to their native Houston. And Clem Greenwood, his best friend from home, committed suicide shortly after Green was taken by the Redskins in the first round of the 1983 draft.
"When you live to be 40 years old, you're blessed," Green said. "I don't put my age in football terms. I'm grateful to be alive and a good husband, father and productive member of the community. I don't walk around feeling 39 on the field. I'm just Darrell. I'm just a corner. You can't play if you're thinking about your age."
Green's age has been even more of a focus this season because his cornerback partner is 21-year-old rookie Champ Bailey. Green graduated high school before Bailey was born.
"The day that Champ was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl, [defensive backs coach] Tom Hayes told me, 'I just want to let you know that you have a part of that,' " said Green, who has actively tutored Bailey.
"Working with Champ has been a lot of fun. I'm prepared for passing the baton to him. Many athletes don't prepare for retirement. You have to prepare in outreach to the business world. I've been very proactive in that for a long time. But I'm not just talking economically. You have to prepare emotionally and mentally."
But neither Green nor the Redskins believes that time has come.
"Thirty-eight, 39, 40, for a cornerback it's unheard of, but Darrell keeps playing at a pretty high level," Hayes said. "He's an amazing guy. Darrell played at a Pro Bowl level the past three years [playing in the all-star game in 1996 and 1997]. If Darrell has been off this year, it hasn't been by much. Every cornerback is going to have some balls caught on him. When it has happened, neither Darrell nor I have pushed the panic button, because there are a lot of plays each week where he's right where he's supposed to be. If Darrell feels like playing next year, he'll play."
Just ask offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who has been with the Redskins throughout Green's 250-game career.
"People say Darrell has lost a step, but he's still three steps quicker than everybody else," Grimm said. "You knew he was gifted from Day One, and I don't see that he has lost any ability. Darrell's a freak of nature. He can play as long as he wants. He still has a passion for the game."

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