Daniels makes case for return

Phillip Daniels turns 36 next month, is rehabilitating from knee surgery that cost him all of last season and counts $2.156 million against the Washington Redskins‘ salary cap in 2009.

But Daniels doesn’t see any of that as a basis for the team to move forward without him. Just the opposite, in fact. The defensive end cites his experience and versatility as reasons why he expects to return to help a line that struggled against physical running teams and produced an NFC-worst 24 sacks.

“I kind of felt like they missed me last year against the run,” he said Wednesday from his home in suburban Chicago. “I know I can help the team out and can play all the spots along the line. … They’ve expressed interest in bringing me back, and I’ve talked to Dan [Snyder] and [defensive coordinator Greg] Blache, but we’ll see what happens.”

Daniels, who tore his ACL on the first day of training camp July 19 and underwent surgery six days later, continues to do more agility and lower-body work in anticipation of being ready for this year’s camp.

“It’s going great - I’m doing running and everything, but talking with Dr. [James] Andrews, he’s told me to take it slow,” he said. “But I’m moving around really good, and I’ll be 100 percent for camp.”

Because the injury happened so early in the season, Daniels has adopted a slower rehab schedule, which will include being limited during the organized team activities and minicamp.

“When I hurt my knee was probably a blessing because it did give me the extra time than other players who got hurt late in the season,” he said.

The Redskins remain in the process of evaluating their roster as well as the free agent list, and the coaching staff will ratchet up its draft preparation next week at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.

Favoring Daniels is the fact that the free agent class isn’t deep. Carolina is expected to franchise Julius Peppers, and other players are aging (Tampa Bay’s Kevin Carter) or are a better fit for a 3-4 scheme (Dallas’ Chris Canty and San Diego’s Igor Olshansky).

The lone marquee defensive tackle is Tennessee’s Albert Haynesworth, and if the Titans can’t sign him to a long-term deal, they likely will franchise him.

Daniels expects to help the Redskins at each of the defensive line positions, an ability he thinks will extend his career. During the 2007 season, he often played first and second down at end and third down at tackle.

“People talk about my age, but I don’t think there’s a young guy at end that can play the run like I can,” he said. “I can play left and right end, and a lot of guys can’t do that. Coach Blache likes the fact I don’t make mistakes, but if I do, I don’t make it again. It’s the reason I’m still in the league.”

Daniels said he entered last year in the best physical condition of his career. He had started a powerlifting program and was squatting 700-plus pounds. Then came the injury, instantly ending his season before it had begun.

“I usually get the kind of injuries I can play through even if I needed surgery later,” he said. “But this one, all I could do the first few months is prop my leg up.”

When Daniels was injured, the Redskins traded a second-round pick this year and a sixth-round pick in 2010 to Miami for former defensive player of the year Jason Taylor.

Plagued by a knee injury in August and a calf injury in September, Taylor produced only 3.5 sacks and 29 tackles in 526 snaps.

Taylor’s $8.5 million salary cap figure is the third highest on the Redskins, and it would be stunning if he returned at that price or returned at all. If Taylor does return, Daniels foresees a good rotation.

“If they do bring him back and bring me back, that would be a good rotation because they could move me inside when he’s on the field and both of us could be kept fresh because neither of us are young,” Daniels said.

Andre Carter also would benefit from the occasional series off. He played 85.9 percent (802 of 933) of the snaps last year.

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