- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

When the Washington Redskins chose safety LaRon Landry sixth overall in last month’s NFL Draft, there were plenty of questions about how moody fourth-year safety Sean Taylor would mesh with the rookie and how he would react to Landry’s inevitable bigger contract.

But there was little mention of the Redskins player most affected by Landry’s arrival, Pierson Prioleau. The 29-year-old Prioleau might well have lost a starting job for the second straight season without making a single bad play.

Prioleau, who played behind the since-departed Ryan Clark in his first year in Washington in 2005, had moved ahead of expensive free agent Adam Archuleta by the end of last summer. He started for Redskins assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams in Buffalo in 2002 and was set to start Washington’s 2006 opener before tearing the ACL in his right knee on the opening kickoff. His season was finished one play after it began.

After seven months of rehab, Prioleau is close to returning to the field.

“No one’s worked harder than Pierson,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “He’s been here every day.”

But being healthy again might not matter considering Williams virtually anointed Landry as a starter during last weekend’s rookie minicamp. Prioleau was considered the favorite to start ahead of Vernon Fox, who started the final six games of 2006, and Omar Stoutmire, who started nine games for the New Orleans Saints last season. But Washington’s selection of Landry with its only choice in the first four rounds seemingly has turned all of the veterans into fallback options.

“I was a little surprised that they drafted [Landry], but Coach Gibbs called me after the draft and explained their thinking,” Prioleau said. “I’m fine with it. I believe the best player is going to play.”

Taylor, the fifth pick in the 2004 draft, didn’t start until the third game of his rookie year. Cornerback Carlos Rogers, taken ninth overall in 2005, didn’t put veteran Walt Harris on the bench until December of his rookie season. And linebacker Rocky McIntosh, Washington’s top selection in 2006 at 35th overall, barely appeared on defense until the final two games last season.

Williams said Landry would work his way into the lineup but added, “I don’t think it will be very long from what I’ve seen. We will have a lot more depth at that position. We like to play Pierson Prioleau in some of those other packages, Vernon Fox in some of those other packages, [2006 rookie] Reed Doughty in some of those packages and I’m really happy that Omar Stoutmire is back. It will be fun to see how that position shapes up going into training camp.”

For now, Landry is back home, and Prioleau is focusing on completing his rehabilitation.

“Everything’s on schedule,” Prioleau said. “I’m doing all the football-related running: sprints and lateral moves. I’m lifting 300 pounds with the leg I hurt. I haven’t had a major setback. I won’t say I’m 100 percent until I get back on the field, but I think it’s just the formality of me passing a physical for me to get fully cleared.”

And Prioleau, who started five games as San Francisco’s fourth-round pick in 1999, clearly is fine with the lowered expectations.

“[Fox and Stoutmire] were all on the field last year and I wasn’t, so I saw myself as the underdog even before the draft,” he said.

While he awaits his return to uniform, Prioleau continues to wear a Virginia Tech cap at Redskin Park. It has more meaning in the wake of the April 16 massacre at his alma mater.

“Anybody who’s part of Hokie nation is affected,” Prioleau said. “Watching the video, I knew all those places. I’m talking to guys I played with and with my roommates trying to figure out the best way we can help the school recover. We want to do something.”

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