- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2006

FIRST FRENCHMAN

As evidenced by his name, Philippe Gardent isn’t just an average rookie free agent linebacker. The 27-year-old is the first French player to try out for an NFL team without having attended high school and college in the United States.

Gardent, who became interested in football while watching it on television, began playing at 16 for a local club team. The former alpine skier played in college at NSC Marseille, for Team Europe in the Global Junior Championship and for the French national team before spending the past four springs in NFL Europe.

“I wanted to be involved in a team sport,” said Gardent, who unlike most French teenagers chose football over soccer. “I like the discipline of football, the way people act on the field. You don’t choose a sport because it’s a national sport in your country. You choose a sport because you love it.”

Gardent led NFL Europe in tackles this spring and was named co-Defensive MVP, the first non-American to be so honored. He then was chosen to spend the year on Washington’s practice squad as part of the NFL’s three-year-old International Development Practice Squad Program.

“It’s great for me to learn the game a little more,” Gardent said. “It’s been very tough because I wasn’t here for [organized team activities] or minicamp. I had to learn 60 plays in three days. Now I just want to show my coaches that it wasn’t a mistake.”

Although Gardent is guaranteed to be a Redskin all season, he doesn’t think he has it made.

“I don’t take it like that,” Gardent said. “I take it like I’m the other guys. I don’t want to make any mistakes. My goal is to show the coaches they can trust me for next season.”

NO. 56’s BOLD WORDS

While such numbers as 7, 9, 28 and 44 remain sacrosanct, the Redskins didn’t waste any time giving out LaVar Arrington’s No. 56 to free agent rookie guard Jasper Harvey.

“I knew whose number it was when they gave it to me,” Harvey said. “I don’t see it as pressure. I’m going to be a better player for the Redskins than [Arrington] was.”

NUMBER OF THE DAY

5Super Bowl rings absent from yesterday morning’s practice. Receiver David Patten, who won three titles with New England, and tight end Christian Fauria, who won two with the Patriots, were sidelined, leaving receiver Antwaan Randle El, who won last season with Pittsburgh, as the only Redskin on the field with a ring to his name.

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