- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

Dallas Sartz and H.B. Blades both are rookie linebackers, but they don’t have much else in common when it comes to the basics.

Strong-side hopeful Sartz is a lanky former safety from Granite Bay, Calif. Middle man candidate Blades is a squatty son of a safety from Plantation, Fla. Sartz already has gone further in football than anyone in his family. Blades’ father, Bennie, and uncles Brian and Al all played in the NFL.

Sartz and Blades now seem destined to be linked, however. They roomed together at the scouting combine in Indianapolis in February and were picked in consecutive rounds — Sartz in the fifth and Blades in the sixth — by the Washington Redskins in last month’s draft.

During the three-day rookie minicamp that ended yesterday at Redskin Park, the 23-year-old Sartz and the 22-year-old Blades began the work of convincing coaches they belong on the roster as the heirs apparent to starters Marcus Washington (who turns 30 in October) and London Fletcher (who this month turns 32), respectively.

“The first thing I thought after I got drafted was that Dallas and I would be together again,” Blades said.

The 6-foot-5, 235-pound Sartz was “pretty stoked” he and Blades wound up with the same team.

“I’m hoping I fit here because of my versatility,” said Sartz, who last season led the Trojans with seven sacks and is a solid pass defender. “I’m a pretty heady player, and I hope that carries over to this level.”

The same goes for Blades, who relied on his instincts to become the third-leading tackler in Pittsburgh history despite being just 5-foot-11, 236 pounds.

Blades and Sartz are smart enough not to be fazed by Redskins assistant head coach/defense Gregg Williams, who spent much of the weekend picking on them and safety LaRon Landry, the team’s first-round choice.

Asked whether Sartz might see more time during the upcoming organized team activities while Marcus Washington recuperates from hip surgery, Williams cracked that he hoped the rookie would survive the weekend.

And when Blades’ lack of height was mentioned, Williams said the Redskins drafted Blades so the 5-10 Fletcher wouldn’t be the only one in the meeting room in a booster seat.

“When a coach gets on you, it means he cares and wants to try to make you better,” said Sartz, who starred at Southern Cal for former New England Patriots and New York Jets coach Pete Carroll.

“As the mike linebacker, everyone’s looking at you to be the leader,” said Blades, who played the past two years for former Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt. “Learning a new defense automatically makes you slower. You’re thinking about being in the right alignment, making sure you take the right steps. If I’m not doing something right, I expect Coach Williams to get on me. That doesn’t bother me.”

Of course, the Redskins wouldn’t have drafted the linebackers if Williams didn’t like them.

“H.B. tackles well,” Williams said. “He’s sideline to sideline. He gets his hands on the ball. There’s no reason he can’t do those things at this level as long as he can get the jump mentally. He’s a student of the game. When you have a little bit of a size disadvantage, where are you going to gain the advantage? H.B. will see how London gained the advantage in a hurry. There are a lot of things that he’ll see that he can mimic and maybe improve at a faster pace.”

But not fast enough to soon displace Fletcher, the NFL’s top tackler the past five seasons. The same goes for Sartz, who’s behind Washington, the Redskins’ best defensive player the past three seasons.

“I’m just trying to make the team,” said Sartz, who didn’t start at USC until midway through his sophomore year.

“I’m just going to bust my tail on special teams, and whenever I get an opportunity on defense, I’m going to take full advantage of it,” said Blades, a backup as a Pitt freshman. “I’ve looked up to London my whole life. I’m going to pick his brain and learn as much as I can. I’m not the biggest guy, and I don’t have blazing speed, but I make plays.”

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