Chris Samuels is happy to return to Hawaii, but the Washington Redskins left tackle didn't exactly revel in the fourth Pro Bowl selection of his seven seasons. Not with the Redskins sure to be home in January with a losing record guaranteed after making the playoffs last year.
"It means a lot from an individual standpoint ... that a lot of guys, a lot of coaches have respect for me around the league," said Samuels, who also was selected in 2001, 2002 and 2005. "But our team goals didn't happen, so I'm still disappointed."
That's not a word that anyone else at Redskin Park used to describe Samuels, a critical component in the Redskins ranking fifth in fewest sacks allowed a pass play and seventh in yards a carry. No other team in the league is in the top seven in both categories.
"Chris has had a huge year, and he's getting rewarded, rightfully so," running back Ladell Betts said. "He's proven himself over the years, and he proved himself again this year. He's aggressive. He's tough. He's strong. He's athletic. You can let him pull, or he can flat-out maul guys. He can do it all."
Fullback Mike Sellers said his teammates call the 6-foot-5, 310-pound Samuels "The Big Professional."
Because of his faith in Samuels' abilities, associate head coach-offense Al Saunders has left him on a proverbial island all year in pass protection.
"Chris has had to take the back side rusher by himself, and he's done a magnificent job," Saunders said.
Offensive line coach Joe Bugel, who nurtured young linemen Russ Grimm and Joe Jacoby into four-time Pro Bowl picks from 1983 to 1986, rates Samuels among his favorites.
"The guy's getting better each year," Bugel said. "He's a pleasure to coach. Chris has played with a lot of pain this year, and he's been exceptional. He's a real warrior. He's made vast improvement in the run-blocking phase of the game. He's always been a real good pass blocker, but the run game, he's really bought into it. We run a lot to our left."
That's a badge of honor for Samuels.
"I watch a lot of guys around the league that are great pass-protectors, but they're lazy in the run game," Samuels said. "They don't want to sprint 20 yards downfield to try blocking a safety. They just want to protect their guy on the pass rush, and that's it. I take pride in both. I want to be physical in the run game and the pass as well."
Samuels has adapted well to numerous changes this year as the Redskins switched offenses, quarterbacks and running backs, with the latter moves coming in November. His surgically repaired knee has given him trouble at times, but Samuels hasn't missed a down, typical of a player who has sat out just four games in his career.
Coach Joe Gibbs praised Samuels' leadership.
"If you hear him out there in practice, he's always having fun and joking with somebody, kind of gets everybody going, which is a big deal, too," Gibbs said. "The chemistry aspects of a football team are real important. You've got people that add something extra, and Chris is one of those."
Among current Redskins, only right tackle Jon Jansen has played in more games for Washington (109) than Samuels' 106.
"Chris is a staple of our offense," right guard Randy Thomas said. "He's consistent. He's the same old guy."
That's a compliment to Samuels, who is 29.
"I've played well all season long," Samuels said. "I've had a solid season, definitely one of my best, but I don't think my best. Maybe one or two games, a few plays here and there I wish I could get back."
Young quarterback Jason Campbell is happy that Samuels, who protects his blind side, has his back.
"His fourth [Pro Bowl berth] says a lot about Chris and his work ethic and everything he brings to the table," Campbell said.
The only Redskins named to more Pro Bowls are: linebacker Chris Hanburger (nine from 1966 to 1976); Hall of Fame safety Ken Houston (seven from 1973 to 1979); cornerback Darrell Green (seven from 1984 to 1997); Hall of Fame receiver/running back Charley Taylor (six from 1964 to 1973); and defensive end Gene Brito (five from 1953 to 1958).