Football success had long been a given for the Washington Redskins' Jason Fabini. A three-year starting left tackle at the University of Cincinnati, Fabini started every game as a rookie in 1998 while helping the New York Jets to their best season in 30 years.
The 6-foot-7, 309-pound Fabini was a fixture for the next six-plus years, missing only the final seven games of 1999 with a torn ACL, until a torn pectoral muscle injury ended his 2005 season after nine games.
However, new coach Eric Mangini decided he would remake the Jets without Fabini last season.
"I was coming off an injury and I was going into the last year of my contract, so when the Jets changed coaches, I kind of figured something might happen," Fabini said. "They wanted to get younger and they got rid of me and [Pro Bowl center Kevin] Mawae."
Even though the pectoral tear limited his workouts during the offseason, Fabini signed with Dallas in 2006 expecting to be a regular for Bill Parcells, his coach during his first two seasons in New York. However, former Chicago Bears player Marc Colombo won the right tackle job and, with Flozell Adams set on the left side, Fabini barely played.
Parcells retired after the season and new coach Wade Phillips cut Fabini, leaving the 32-year-old Fort Wayne, Ind., native looking for work. That's when the Redskins called with an offer to compete to back up longtime starting tackles Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels. Barring an injury to either of them, there was no chance to start. And if veteran tackle Todd Wade's switch to guard failed, Fabini would be the fourth tackle, at best. But Fabini swallowed his pride and accepted the one-year deal with just $40,000 to sign in April.
"I wanted to get somewhere where I could fit into the program and learn," Fabini said. "This was the best chance for me at this point. My agent talked to a few teams, but Washington was ready to do something sooner rather than later. It was the best offer at the time. Randy [Thomas] was here. And I had heard so much about [longtime offensive line coach Joe] Bugel. I thought this would be a good opportunity."
It didn't hurt that Parcells called to endorse Fabini.
"Anytime Bill calls, you listen just out of sheer respect," Bugel said. "He said that Jason was a tough guy who would fit into our system. Jason can play both tackles and both guards if necessary. He's not pretty, but he's physical. And he's got a chip on his shoulder from what happened last year."
Not that Fabini's looking for sympathy about his sudden drop from starter to afterthought.
"I'm not the greatest athlete," Fabini said. "I just work hard and play hard. That's what kept me in the league so long. I'm tough and I get the job done."
The Redskins player who knows Fabini best, right guard Thomas, seconded that idea.
"I was pretty pleased that we got Jason because he's a fighter," said Thomas, who started with Fabini on the Jets from 1999 to 2002. "He has always been one of those scrappers who does whatever needs to be done. When Jumbo Elliott got hurt [with the Jets in 2000], Jason had to go to the left side and we had a nice line [helping produce three straight winning seasons]. Jason's got the worst body and some of the best techniques. It's surprising that Dallas let him go. He's going to help us tremendously."
Note -- Defensive end Renaldo Wynn is the host for a classic car show tomorrow at Redskin Park from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wynn spent $38,000 restoring the 1958 Chevrolet Impala he had on hand Thursday. Tickets are $15 for ages 13 and up; $10 for ages 2 to 12; and free for children younger than 2. All proceeds will go to Wynn's Family of Faith Foundation, which helps at-risk kids, and the Redskins Charitable Foundation.