Seventeen years later, Barry Wilburn has returned to the practice field for the Washington Redskins.
The former All-Pro cornerback, whose promising career in Washington derailed because of ailing kidneys and then a positive test for cocaine, is back in burgundy and gold this summer as a coaching intern. He is preparing for his first season working with Howard University's defensive backs.
"I felt that I didn't complete what I wanted to in Washington," said Wilburn, who at 43 still has a corner's chiseled physique. "I could have had a long career here. I could have been like Darrell Green. I didn't have a bad taste about the Redskins after they let me go. I felt I let them down. I stayed in touch with coach [Joe] Gibbs after I left. When I went to Cleveland in 1992, he recommended me to the Browns."
Wilburn led the NFL with nine interceptions for the Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins and earned All-Pro status in 1987, then topped the Redskins in interceptions again in 1988. But his world crumbled the next year. Wilburn, bothered by the ailing kidneys, lost his starting spot to Brian Davis. And then he was suspended and cut by the Redskins after failing the drug test.
Wilburn made it back to league, catching on with the Browns after a two-year absence, then bounced between the CFL and NFL from 1993 to 1999. He worked in real estate and helped coach his old high school team in Memphis before landing the job at Howard through his Tennessee connections. When Wilburn joined a couple of Howard players at a predraft workout at Redskin Park in April, Gibbs encouraged him to apply for the internship.
"Barry was a heck of a player," Gibbs said. "I kept tabs on him after he left here. He bounced right back and never had problems again. He's a real classy guy. I felt like that it wasn't going to be an issue anymore. I'm proud of him."
Wilburn isn't proud of the drug issue, but he doesn't hide from it or from his 2001 arrest on armed robbery charges, which later were dropped.
"I share my experiences on and off the field with the players," Wilburn said. "I tell the young guys it's a business 24 hours a day."
Wilburn is excited to be back and looking forward to starting at Howard, but he never envisioned following his father, Jesse, a longtime high school coach, into the profession.
"Growing up, I was always like, 'Coaching is not my thing, but here I am,' " Wilburn said. "Once I knew I definitely wouldn't play again, which was about two or three years ago, I kind of migrated into coaching because I love the game too much, I guess.
"I helped out back home and with a friend who coaches the [semi-pro] Washington Chiefs. I thought I might want to give full-time coaching a try. Coaching is just me giving back. It's me teaching them what I've learned, share the experiences I've been through on and off the field. ... I did something right, and I just want to pass that along."
Into the pool
LaRon Landry's five-year, $41.5 million contract means the sixth pick in the draft counts $2.16 million against Washington's 2007 salary cap. The cap costs for the rest of the five-man draft class are: fifth-round linebacker Dallas Sartz ($331,000), sixth-round linebacker H.B. Blades ($312,000), sixth-round quarterback Jordan Palmer ($306,000) and seventh-round tight end Tyler Ecker ($300,000).
With the $3.41 million rookie pool consumed, the Redskins still have more than $5 million in cap room for an injured reserve fund and to sign players who have been cut by other teams.
Daniels gives a scare
Starting defensive end Phillip Daniels limped off the field with back spasms during last night's practice but later returned. Daniels said he had overdone it in the weight room earlier in the day. Backup defensive tackle Vaka Manupuna wasn't as fortunate, getting carted off the field with an injured quadriceps. ...
Starting fullback Mike Sellers (knee) and defensive end Bryant Shaw (heat exhaustion) both returned to work, while cornerback Jerametrius Butler (hamstring) saw limited action, leaving only starting offensive tackle Chris Samuels (knee), starting running back Clinton Portis (knee) and rookie tight end Tyler Ecker (groin) on the shelf.