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By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Topic - Keith Burns
The former Washington coach wrote a little-known book about how to coach special teams, and if anyone could use the words of wisdom of George Allen, it is Mike Shanahan and his Redskins squad.
Darrel Young stood in a corner of the locker room underneath AT&T Stadium that reeked of sweat, stale air and defeat. Every few seconds, he slapped the side of his navy suit for emphasis because the words, really, didn't seem adequate to describe the Redskins not-so-special teams.
The Redskins are 1-4 and about to face the Chicago Bears on Sunday at FedEx Field and the Denver Broncos on the road the following week. Unless Shanahan can find a solution, things are about to get ugly at Redskins Park. Questions that no one wanted to answer will be asked.
Two of the Redskins' top special teams players are done for the season. Reserve linebacker Bryan Kehl sustained a torn ACL in his left knee in the second quarter, and longtime long snapper Nick Sundberg tore the meniscus in his right knee.
That unit is expected to act like clockwork. Hit field goals and extra-point attempts, don't turn the ball over, provide the occasional big play and make sure the opponent doesn't. It's a pretty simple formula, but so far the Washington Redskins have struggled to execute it.
With longtime special teams coach Danny Smith and captain Lorenzo Alexander gone, it's up to new coach Keith Burns to rearrange the remaining pieces for the Redskins.
"[Shanahan] basically turned the organization around because he had a plan, he stuck to his plan, and three years later we were Super Bowl champions," said Washington special teams coordinator Keith Burns, who played 10 years for Shanahan in Denver, including both Super Bowl seasons. "He's owed a lot of credit for that because he was actually there when it all started."
"I understand it from a players' perspective, because when you're so used to being in one system for so many years, it's part of it," Burns told reporters. "I've played in five different special teams systems. I've coached in three different special teams systems, so I've always taken a little part from each and I'm bringing it here to Washington."