- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Forgive Marcus Mason if he’s experiencing a serious case of deja vu.

When the Washington Redskins claimed him off waivers from the New York Jets on April 28, Mason was in the same position he had been in each of the past two offseasons: fourth on the depth chart at running back and just looking for a chance to play.

With the Redskins, he must wait for that chance behind three-time Pro Bowl pick Clinton Portis; Ladell Betts, a former 1,000-yard runner; and special teams ace Rock Cartwright.

Still, the 5-foot-9, 215-pound Mason, who also spent time with the Baltimore Ravens, believes that this season can be the one in which he finally emerges from the shadows and takes a place on the active roster.

“I’m really glad to be back,” the Potomac native said. “I’ve been with two other organizations since I left, and this is where I want to be. Not just because it’s home. I’m comfortable here. I know the guys and the coaches, and they know me. I think everything that happened to me last year has made me an even better professional. I have another opportunity, and I’m planning to make the most of it.”

That seemed to be what Mason did last summer, too.

A year after spending all but the opening week on Washington’s practice squad, the Youngstown State product led the NFL with 317 preseason rushing yards on an average of 4.8 yards a carry.

That, however, wasn’t good enough to earn Mason a roster spot with Washington, and a series of moves, cuts and signings followed.

A day after being cut, Mason signed on to the Ravens’ practice squad. Eight weeks later, the Jets claimed him. After six weeks on the inactive list, he was waived. Twelve days later, the Jets re-signed him to the practice squad, where he finished the year.

He thought he had gotten a break when the Jets hired Rex Ryan, the former defensive coordinator of the Ravens, as their new coach.

“I never really got a chance to show what I could do with the Jets last year,” Mason said. “I thought that was going to change when they hired Rex, but then they drafted a back.”

And a day after New York took Iowa’s Shonn Green in the third round, Mason was no longer with the Jets.

So now the 24-year-old Mason, who set the Maryland high school career rushing record at Georgetown Prep, is back to fight the long odds of making Washington’s roster.

“We weren’t fortunate enough to get a guy in the draft with the limited amount of picks we had, and we needed another back,” running backs coach Stump Mitchell said. “The Jets let Marcus go, and we were glad to bring him back. Marcus is in a situation where he needs guys at other positions not to get hurt so that we have to carry an extra player at that position.”

But Mitchell believes that Mason has what it takes to make it in the NFL.

“Marcus has good vision, excellent run skills, excellent hands,” Mitchell said. “He can do it. He’s just been behind guys who are pretty daggone good - not just here but in Baltimore and New York, where they had Thomas Jones and Leon Washington.”

Mitchell disputed the idea that Mason struggled to master pass protection in coach Jim Zorn’s West Coast passing scheme, noting that a subpar effort in the Redskins’ preseason finale helped doom Mason last summer. Mason believes he learned another lesson, too.

“What I’m going to do different this year is focus more on special teams,” he said. “Clinton and Ladell are great backs. I understand what my role is. No matter how well I run the ball, I have to be a better special teams player if I’m going to make the team.”

Note - A Redskins official said the team has no interest in outside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, 27, who was cut by new St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo on Friday even though he led the Rams in tackles in 2008.

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