- Associated Press - Thursday, August 19, 2010

ASHBURN, Va. | For the last practice of training camp, LaRon Landry had a fashion accessory dangling from his waist. It was a rolled up white towel striped with black tape, resembling something like a large zebra-themed nightstick.

“I’ve got my own swag,” he said.

Always a little different. Never hard to miss. And certainly someone who leaves an impression on unsuspecting receivers and running backs. Landry has always been grouped with the words “hard-hitting” and “intense” since the Redskins drafted him No. 6 overall in 2007, and this season he’s in a new defense that will showcase his ferocity even more.

“The 3-4 defense,” Landry said, “has enabled me as a player to go out and fly around and have fun.”

Landry is at home as a strong safety, playing close to the line of scrimmage to stuff the run and helping out in coverage. But the shooting death of Sean Taylor in November 2007 forced the Redskins to move him to free safety, where he had to play with more caution and less abandon. He was starting to get noticed more for giving up long touchdown passes over the middle than for his bone-jawing hits, particularly last season as the team struggled to a 4-12 record.

The arrival of Jim Haslett has brought a defensive overhaul, with Landry back at his natural position.

“Last year it was ‘Don’t let anything behind you, you’ve got to be safe,’” Landry said. “This year, it’s more aggressive, let’s go get it. Read your keys. Be smart about it, but get it.”

The move was somewhat of a gamble because the Redskins didn’t have an obvious candidate to start at free safety. Three players were expected to contend for the job at training camp, but third-year player Kareem Moore has had a superb three weeks of practice and left Chris Horton and Reed Doughty far behind.

That means Landry can stay right where he is. Well, most of the time. In this scheme, it might not be easy to tell. He leaped to pick off a pass 20 yards downfield during Thursday’s practice.

“Disguise plays a major factor in this defense,” Landry said. “And we’re always constantly moving and disguising things, and that makes it a lot of fun.”

Haslett called Landry a player “that can do almost anything he wants.”

“He’s a guy, 225 (pounds), that is probably the fastest guy I’ve been around,” Haslett said. “He’s explosive and fast. He’s a good tackler. He’s a good blitzer. He can play in the back end, but I think he prefers to play closer. We’ll try to accommodate these guys and put them in the best position to succeed and to help this football team.”

Landry doesn’t let up, even when going against high-profile teammates in practice. It was an instant highlight when he sent tight end Chris Cooley to the ground with a thud early on the second day of camp.

“Most guys just bump up against you when you have the ball,” Cooley said. “LaRon likes to go into the full tackling mode. He’s in scrimmage mode all the time. We talked about it in the locker room and he said, ‘Why are you giving me a hard time?’ I said ‘You are the only one that tackles.’ … He laughed.

“You know what you’re getting out of (No.) 30. He’s not making us worse; he’s making everyone better. He loves playing the game, he’s an extreme competitor and you can’t ask for more out of a guy.”

Coach Mike Shanahan is just fine with Landry’s practice intensity, as long as he’s not hitting below the waist and risking injury to his teammates.

“I don’t mind those hard hits. We’re going to get those in games,” the coach said. “I’m excited about him because hopefully we’ll put him in position to make a lot of plays. We’re not going to hold him back. But at the same time, the game has to slow down for you. You can’t just be running to run. There’s times to run, there’s times to lay back. Hopefully, he’ll learn that.”

Notes: Shanahan said the starters will play about 30-35 plays Saturday night against Baltimore, which should be most or all of the first half. … Thursday marked the end of camp, which means the players can move out of the team hotel. The schedule will have a regular season feel starting next week, with a more compact workday of meetings and practice. … While Shanahan isn’t into rookie hazing, he did lighten up the mood at the nightly meetings by having players perform skits. “Basically what they do is make fun of coaches,” Shanahan said. “To me, it kind of loosens the guys up a little bit and kind of brings the team together.” Did anyone make fun of the head coach? “There’s only one guy that did that, and we cut him yesterday,” he said, joking.