- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nothing about Jon Jansen’s situation changed from Week 3 of last season to Week 3 of this season. But then again, everything has changed.

A year ago, Jansen was recovering from the shock of losing his job as the Washington Redskins’ starting right tackle, a job he held, when healthy, for nine seasons. Jansen, once the bedrock of the offensive line, suddenly was reduced to playing on field goals and extra points.

This Sunday at Ford Field, Jansen, if he plays, likely will do so again only on field goals and extra points. This time, however, the 33-year-old Michigan native will do it with a smile. The sting of being cut by the Redskins has passed, and Jansen is “extremely excited” to be a member of the lowly Detroit Lions.

“This is where I spend my offseasons. And this is where I had hoped I would end up at some point,” said Jansen, who signed with Detroit hours after being released by Washington in May. “I wanted to play my whole career in one spot, but if that wasn’t going to happen, Detroit would be a nice place to go because it’s home.”

Jansen likely will remain a backup to right tackle Gosder Cherilus but said he has “absolutely no complaints” about his role as a mentor to the 2008 first-round choice. It’s a role Detroit offensive line coach George Yarno said Jansen embraces.

“Being inactive the first game was frustrating… but it’s all part of a process,” Jansen said. “I’m hoping every week I get a little bit more time. My goal is to prove that I am still a Pro Bowl-caliber player. I have no doubt that’s what I’m going to do once I get my opportunity. Obviously my best spot is right tackle, but I played all over the place in camp. It was a lot of fun, actually.”

Jansen wound up starting 11 games last season and helped Clinton Portis gain 1,487 rushing yards. Still, he was wary enough about his future with Washington that he reported in March for the offseason workout program in his best shape in years.

It didn’t matter. Coach Jim Zorn wasn’t a believer, and offensive line coach Joe Bugel, a longtime supporter, lost faith in him. The Redskins cut Jansen even though it cost more to do that than to keep him as a backup to Stephon Heyer, his successor at right tackle.

Nearly four months later, Jansen is at peace with what was so painful in May.

“I’ve moved on,” he said. “I don’t foresee anything too difficult on Sunday, at least from my perspective. I’ve played against friends, whether they were teammates from college or from the Redskins. I’m really looking forward to the game. It will be a lot of fun to get a chance to play against the old boys.”

Jansen lives halfway between the Lions’ practice facility and Ann Arbor, where he started four years and helped Michigan win a national title. He said he hopes to have dinner Saturday with Redskins long snapper Ethan Albright and center Casey Rabach.

Albright said he is looking forward to that meal but that it will be strange to look across the field and see Jansen on the opposite sideline.

“It’s weird in the hotel,” said Albright, Jansen’s roommate on the road for eight years. “I don’t have a new roommate because I don’t want anybody who might snore or keep me up late. Jon and I were on the same schedule. It’s rare to make friendships in this league when everything clicks. Our wives are friends. Our kids would ask when Mr. Jon was coming over. We’ll be friends the rest of our lives.”

Rabach likewise misses his buddy, with whom he trades offseason visits at their homes in the upper Midwest. But he’s able to put that close friendship aside at work every day with Bugel, whom he said often asks how Jansen is doing with the Lions.

“This is a business,” Rabach said. “That’s the best way to look at it.”