It didn’t change the outcome of the game. It didn’t change possession of the ball. In fact, the opponent gained a first down on the play. But Lorenzo Alexander’s tackle of Tennessee quarterback Tim Rattay on Saturday night is Washington’s play of the summer so far.
Alexander, a practice squad member the past two seasons in Carolina and Washington, came to training camp behind five veteran defensive tackles but already was making a serious push for a roster spot before his 15 seconds of fame on YouTube.
With 38 seconds left and the Redskins having just scored two quick touchdowns to turn a sure loss into a 14-6 lead, Alexander’s helmet flew off. But he stayed with the play, racing across the field and tackling Rattay just as safety Reed Doughty arrived at the scrambling quarterback. Doughty’s helmet hit Alexander’s face, knocking him woozy and giving him a new nickname — “Scarface” — thanks to six stitches.
“I made an inside move on the guard, and the running back came up to check the ‘A’ gap and kind of put his hand in my facemask and popped it off,” Alexander said. “I knew my helmet was off, but … the quarterback was rolling out. I’m trying to go get him. The end result is my face, but that heals in time. I was more in shock because I saw all that blood coming off my face. Early this year I had my wisdom teeth pulled, and that pain was a lot worse than these couple of stitches I have in my face.”
Alexander’s teammates greeted him on the sideline by questioning his sanity and then congratulating him for his hustle.
“You do what you have to do to make the team,” said defensive end Andre Carter, Alexander’s host on his successful recruiting visit to California in 2000. “Lorenzo’s always been like that. He’s always worked hard. I thought it was going to be a little nastier, but fortunately his face is just a little scarred up.”
The coaches, of course, were thrilled.
“You can’t help but love that passion,” assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams said. “That’s another example of a kid that has taken an opportunity and run with it. He busted his tail last year on the practice squad going both ways. We gave him a chance [at guard] to see if he could help our offensive line in the spring and OTAs. We moved him back … to see if he can add something to our team. To his credit, he’s in a very competitive situation right now.”
Indeed, only returning starting tackles Cornelius Griffin and Kedric Golston are sure to make the team. Former starter Joe Salave’a is trying to hang on to a job at 32 after two injury-riddled seasons. Anthony Montgomery did little as a rookie in 2006 and is nursing a sprained knee. Ryan Boschetti, a three-year veteran, hardly played last year and didn’t get on the field at Tennessee. And former Cincinnati Bengals player Matthias Askew just signed Monday.
“We have cats like Cornelius and Joe that have been here a long time, and you’ve got to show you can compete with those guys on a consistent basis,” the 6-foot-1, 300-pound Alexander said. “I’ve grown in knowledge, and I’ve also become stronger. I have one more year [of practice squad eligibility], but I don’t want to do that. I haven’t played in a real game in two years.”
Receiver Brandon Lloyd, out for all but two practices since Aug. 2 with shin splints, returned yesterday. Lloyd said he’s still in constant pain but hopes to play Saturday against Pittsburgh.
“I don’t see it as being a setback,” Lloyd said of missing the better part of two weeks of camp and not working with the starters.
Fellow receiver Antwaan Randle El again sat out with a bruised quadriceps but is hopeful of returning today and playing Saturday. Receiver Corey Bradford was out after injuring his left hamstring Monday.
Offensive tackle Stephon Heyer was back after missing the end of Monday’s practice with a tender hamstring, but guard Todd Wade remained sidelined with a slightly dislocated shoulder. Montgomery tested his sprained knee in individual drills and hopes to face the Steelers.