Phillip Daniels, a 13-year veteran, was as excited as a rookie after the Washington Redskins' first practice of training camp Thursday.
The reason a routine workout so pleased the 36-year-old defensive end? Daniels made it through unscathed - unlike last season, when he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first snap of camp.
"I was joking with the coaching staff [that] maybe I shouldn't go the first play," Daniels said with a grin. "I didn't go in until the eighth play, so that was good. ... Once I put my hand in the dirt, I don't think about it no more. I don't feel it or anything, so I'm good."
Greg Blache's defense ranked fourth overall and eighth against the run last season, but the coordinator said Daniels' absence was sorely felt.
"Besides being a good power rusher, a good inside rusher, the guy's a dominant player in the run game," Blache said. "You don't run at Phillip Daniels. I'm excited he's back healthy. He looks good moving around. You look at his body - all you guys would like to borrow it for a day or two. The guy looks like Adonis."
Daniels, veteran defensive tackles Albert Haynesworth and Cornelius Griffin and second-year receiver Malcolm Kelly rested during the team portion of the afternoon practice. All of those players but Haynesworth, a newcomer who finished last season for the Tennessee Titans with an ailing knee, underwent surgery in the past 13 months.
Coach Jim Zorn asked London Fletcher to rest too, but the 34-year-old middle linebacker declined. Running back hopeful Dominique Dorsey was carted off the field during the afternoon session suffering from cramps.
No news on Orakpo
Alfred Fincher signed with the Redskins a year ago after being cut by the lowly Detroit Lions. On Thursday, Fincher started at strongside linebacker in place of the club's unsigned top draft choice, Brian Orakpo.
Executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said there were no developments in contract talks with Ben Dogra, Orakpo's agent.
"When a guy holds out, it doesn't benefit him, it doesn't benefit the football team," said Blache, noting that Orakpo is also making the switch to linebacker from defensive end.
H.B. Blades, who started five games on the strong side last season when Marcus Washington was hurt, has returned to second-string middle linebacker.
"Every day Orakpo's not here, it's an opportunity for me, and I've got to make the best of it," said Fincher, who played almost solely on special teams last season. "Last year, I just wanted to make the team and get their trust. This year, I want to be a factor."
Samuels, Thomas back
Six-time Pro Bowl pick Chris Samuels finished last season on injured reserve with a torn triceps. Guard Randy Thomas probably should have joined him there instead of playing with a herniated disk in his neck.
So even though the Redskins won't have a full-pads, contact practice until Saturday morning, there were smiles all around because Samuels and Thomas were healthy and in the lineup together for the first time since Week 6 of last season.
"I don't think about injuries," said Thomas, who followed his neck surgery in January with a knee scope in May. "I'm glad to be out here, but it feels like my 11th year. You think you're beastin' in the weight room, you're running good, but as soon as you get someone over there trying to beat you... "
Samuels, who at 305 pounds is at his lowest weight since his second season, was happy to be on the field after staying out of contact drills at the start of camp last year as he recovered from an elbow injury. His downturn last season began with a knee injury in Week 6.
"It was tough. It was hot out there, but everything felt great," Samuels said. "I feel lighter and better conditioned."
Zorn will limit Thomas and Samuels, who missed as many games in 2008 (four) as he had during his eight previous seasons, to one practice on two-a-days once contact begins.
"I saw a great first day from both those guys," Zorn said. "I was really excited to see Randy be able to jump right in and go hard. Chris has got a mission for himself."
Thrash's new role
Receiver James Thrash, whose 12-year career ended with his release in June, was hired to assist with the Redskins' player programs.