- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

It still seems a little unreal at times to Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels.

Alone among the Washington Redskins, the two offensive linemen have played for each of the coaches who have been hired and fired or promoted and forgotten at Redskin Park during Dan Snyder’s seven seasons as owner.

Jansen and Samuels were there for the abrupt dismissal of Norv Turner and the brief caretaker tenure of Terry Robiskie. They were there for the short and stormy reign of Marty Schottenheimer, the short and strange era of Steve Spurrier and now the successful return of Joe Gibbs.

There was the parade of big-name, big-money busts on the roster: Deion Sanders, Jeff George, Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier and so on.

“Every once in a while, Chris and I look at each other and say, ‘I can’t believe what’s gone on the last seven, eight years,’” says Jansen, the right tackle. “We’ve seen people come and go, come back and go again.”

Jansen and Samuels, the left tackle, have started at their positions for a combined 12 seasons and arguably are the most valuable players on the team considering that Todd Wade, signed off the street Monday, soon could be the top backup at tackle. If either player gets injured and misses significant playing time, the health of quarterback Mark Brunell and the entire offensive scheme well could be thrown into jeopardy.

And yet, the 30-year-old Jansen, the Redskins’ second-round pick in the 1999 draft, and the 29-year-old Samuels, the third pick overall in 2000, don’t have much in common.

Jansen is a married father from the Midwest who lives in semi-rural Purcellville, Va. He enjoys the public aspect of his job so much that he spent several draft days as an analyst for ESPN. Center Casey Rabach teasingly calls Jansen a “media darling.” Jansen believes he has an obligation to talk to reporters in bad times as well as good and would like to stay involved in football — perhaps on television — when his playing days are done.

Samuels is a Southern bachelor who lives in Ashburn, Va., near Redskin Park, more into keeping with his urban roots of Mobile, Ala. While always cordial with reporters, Samuels is a private person who, given a choice, prefers the anonymity that many linemen enjoy.

“We don’t have that much in common on the surface, but Jon and I are friends,” Samuels says. “He’s kind of country and I’m more city, but we do talk football. He helped me with some technical things when I was a rookie, and we still talk these days.”

Adds Jansen: “What’s great about this game is that you get to be friends with guys you wouldn’t necessarily have met otherwise. Chris and I are kind of the epitome of that. We don’t run in the same circles, but there are times when the whole O-line gets together and has a good time.”

Samuels mans the left side of the line, usually the most critical end. With the Redskins, the opposite side — Jansen’s side — is more important because quarterback Mark Brunell is left-handed. That means Brunell can’t see pass rushers coming from his right, and it is Jansen’s job to protect that blind side.

“Jon is an excellent run-blocker and very solid in pass protection,” says Joe Bugel, the offensive line coach. “Chris is one of the best athletes I’ve ever coached. We leave him one-on-one a lot. He reminds me of [three-time Pro Bowl tackle] Jim Lachey. Jon is more like [four-time Pro Bowl tackle] Joe Jacoby, a big, strong, physical guy.

“I don’t worry about Jon being on the blind side. He can handle it. And we use our tight end over there a lot of the time.”

In part because right tackles rarely receive such acclaim, Jansen hasn’t been chosen for the Pro Bowl, an honor Samuels has received three times.

“Early on in my career that really bothered me, but I learned not to get caught up in things that I can’t control,” Jansen says.

Rabach semi-jokingly says Samuels and Jansen belong on their respective sides of the line because of their differing levels of athletic ability.

“Chris moves really well,” Rabach says. “Jon playing basketball wouldn’t be pretty.”

Responds Jansen: “I’d rather be physical than athletic.”

Spoken like a lineman. But Samuels isn’t a softy either, missing just four games in six years. Jansen has started every game in his seven years except for 2004, when he was sidelined for the entire season after tearing an Achilles tendon in August.

“If we get hurt, we either get healthy or tough it out,” Jansen says.

Both players toughed it out last year, Samuels played the second half of the season on an ailing knee that required offseason surgery, and Jansen played the entire year with one or both thumbs broken or in casts.

“Those are certainly guys who mean a lot to us,” Gibbs says. “You can count on both of them. You saw what happened when Jon missed the whole year [Washington’s 6-10 record was the worst of Gibbs’ Hall of Fame career]. Jon and Chris were a big part of the reason we got in the playoffs last year. But they were both still nicked. I can’t wait to see how they play if they’re healthy all year.”

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