ASHBURN, Va. | It's never a good idea to skip breakfast and lunch before going outside for football practice on a hot day, even if it's an athlete trying to watch his weight.
Washington Redskins defensive tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu did just that last week and suffered for it. Sapped of energy and dehydrated, he had to ride a cart off the field after practice and was helped into the building by two teammates.
"I can't skip meals and do practice," Kemoeatu said Wednesday. "You shouldn't do that."
New to the Redskins, the Tonga-born, Hawaii-raised veteran has played an ancillary role in the Albert Haynesworth saga at training camp — Kemoeatu is the player holding down the starting nose tackle job while Haynesworth toils with the backups — but Kemoeatu's story of weight loss and rehabilitation is a story unto its own.
After missing the entire 2009 season with a torn right Achilles' tendon, Kemoeatu has worked his weight down from a peak of 400 pounds to a somewhat viable 350 or so and is trying again to be the inside force that helped him anchor lines in Baltimore and Carolina.
"I'm not going to get back to that weight again," Kemoeatu said. "It was just unhealthy. Playing in the NFL, you've got to be professional about it. Not just working out, but about eating, staying healthy and all that."
But willpower at the dinner table is not Kemoeatu's strong point. Or, as he put it: "I have a weakness — food."
Realizing this, the Redskins sent along a baby sitter — strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright — when Kemoeatu returned home after the offseason workouts and minicamps. They didn't want all the hard work he had put in at Redskins Park during the spring going to waste in Hawaii during the summer.
"Some guys know exactly what they're going to do when they're away," coach Mike Shanahan said. "And Kemo said, 'Hey, I've got a big family. There's no way I'm going to practice two times a day, so can Ray come with me?' I said there's a smart man."
With Wright staying at Kemoeatu's house and staying on Kemoeatu's case, Kemoeatu came back ready for training camp, playing a nose tackle position that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett says "is like the catcher in baseball" — lots of grunt work to set up glory for others.
"The catcher has a role to play for the pitcher," Kemoeatu said. "Obviously the pitcher's going to be the main guy, and my linebackers are going to be the main guy."
It was that type of mindset that had Haynesworth balking at the idea of playing nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, but the two-time All-Pro has been persuaded that the scheme is flexible enough for him to make plays in the backfield. Haynesworth has been working with the second unit at camp because he missed the first nine days of practice while getting himself into shape to pass a conditioning test. No one is saying exactly what the rotation will be once he works himself back into the good graces of the coaching staff, but he is expected to get snaps at defensive end as well as nose tackle.
"If I'm in there at nose tackle first, second down, then have Albert come in on third down and rush the passer, get the sack and get himself a ticket to go the Pro Bowl, the team is winning," Kemoeatu said. "So he's doing his job."
Notes: Kemoeatu did not practice Wednesday because of a sore left shoulder. He said he'll return Thursday and play in Saturday's exhibition against Baltimore. ... WR Malcolm Kelly (hamstring) and WR Mike Furrey (concussion) remain sidelined.