Some players try to lead by example. Others attempt to inspire with words. For Washington Redskins offensive tackle Jon Jansen, his whole way of life is doing both.
“When you’re named, like I was voted, as a captain, you have to hold yourself to another level whether [teammates] do or not,” Jansen said this week. “I always hold myself to a pretty high level. But when you’re in the spot of having to say, ‘Hey, guys, let’s get going,’ you can’t give them any reason to say, ‘Hey, you’re not doing it.’”
Jansen is back at that higher level as his third NFL season hits its midpoint. Providing the Redskins (3-5) a powerful combination of run- and pass-blocking at right tackle, and working on his second straight season without missing a snap, “the Rock” could be en route to his first Pro Bowl.
And regardless of whether that league-wide recognition comes, Jansen already has received a higher praise from teammates as one of four team captains. It is a role for which he is well suited.
“He’s a natural leader,” left guard Dave Szott said. “He’s always the guy at the end of practice [saying], ‘Hey, we had a good practice,’ or, ‘We’ve got to step it up.’ He always seems to have something very poignant to address the guys with where we need to be and where we are.”
That’s a duty not every player no matter how talented can perform.
“It’s not easy being a leader,” coach Marty Schottenheimer said. “A lot of people don’t want the responsibility that goes with being a leader, because you sometimes have to say things that people may not be comfortable hearing. But Jon is accepting the role more and more.”
Jansen acknowledges that there has been an adjustment period, even though he believes being a captain is “kind of who I am.”
“It always takes a little time,” Jansen said. “I’m still growing into the spot. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to be there for a while.”
The only thing that doesn’t fit about Jansen’s captaincy is his age just 25. But he’s not new to the role. Jansen captained the University of Michigan as a junior and then again as a senior in 1997 when the Wolverines won the national title. He has missed just one NFL snap, late in a game in 1999. And he is considered among the NFL’s top right tackles, despite the lack of a Pro Bowl invitation so far.
One might think that a grizzled veteran like Szott, who is in his 12th season, would have difficulty taking direction from a youngster like Jansen. But Szott has seen young leadership elsewhere in the league and said he “absolutely” sees it here with Jansen.
“That’s the great thing about the league: If you’ve got a certain amount of ability, play at a certain level, it doesn’t matter if you’re old or young, everybody respects that,” Szott said. “That brings you immediate respect. Everybody listens.”
Jansen has helped the right side of Washington’s line evolve as a run-blocking unit and has impressed with his pass-blocking. Said Szott: “Usually [tackles] have one strength, but he doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses.”
Jansen’s biggest nemesis is New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan. After keeping Strahan sackless in their first five meetings, Jansen finally was beaten in the most recent Oct. 28. But Strahan’s two sacks came late in a Redskins victory.
In any case, it is the versatility that Szott mentioned that makes Jansen most proud.
“My point of pride is that I want to be a total player,” Jansen said. “I want to get to the Pro Bowl. But to get there, the team needs to be successful. If we’re in a passing situation, I’ve got to keep the guys off Tony [Banks]. If we need that first down and any lineman will tell you this there’s nothing more gratifying than when they call the play to go over right tackle.”
The only thing odd about Jansen this season has been his interaction with the media. A frequently quoted player in years past, Jansen has ducked reporters at times, particularly during the 0-5 start.
“It’s just that we had a rough start to the beginning of the season, and I take it very personal,” Jansen said. “It’s not that I’ve become media-unfriendly. I didn’t feel I had anything important to say. And not that I have anything important to say now. Maybe I’m just starting to grow a little bit more this year, as the year goes on.”
The indications are that he is already grown up.
Notes Missing practice yesterday were defensive end Bruce Smith (flu), wide receiver Michael Westbrook (hip), defensive tackle Kenard Lang (knee) and linebacker LaVar Arrington (ankle). Arrington’s ailment is the only long-term concern. Tight end Stephen Alexander (ankle) is beginning to work back into practice after missing the past three games.