- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Guard Brenden Stai began his crash course with the Washington Redskins yesterday, trying to speed-read the terminology for this offense so he can start the Sept.8 opener against Arizona.
"A good analogy would be: First day of school and you're a foreigner, you don't speak the same language, you don't really know anybody," Stai explained.
Stai, acquired in a trade Thursday and the first-string right guard in his first Redskins practice yesterday, must master the Fun 'n' Gun as quickly as possible. Once that occurs, line coach Kim Helton expects Stai to perform in the powerful, capable manner he often displayed during the first seven years of his NFL career.
"Understanding the play is easy for him; the verbiage of getting him on the right guy we're having to go through all that," Helton said. "But there wasn't a lot of hesitation on his part. I'm not looking for him to do anything except play real well."
Stai will get his first chance in Thursday's preseason finale against New England, when he'll play extensive minutes with the starters. Helton won't try to overload him over the next two days, preferring instead to let "some of the natural football instincts take over."
The Patriots' tricky defensive front should be quite a challenge. In the Redskins' preseason finale at New England last year, for example, Washington's offensive line gave up three sacks of Jeff George in the first half, two of which resulted in fumbles.
"It's a great opportunity for him because you're never going to face a defense that creates more changes of fronts," Helton said. "They try to fool you a bunch with their defensive scheme, and they've done a great job in the NFL for years."
Nonetheless, Washington is eager to find out how its new-look line will perform after quite a bit of shuffling during training camp and the preseason.
The Redskins initially believed they signed Rod Jones to start at right guard, but he struggled with the adjustment from tackle and was playing as a fill-in tackle when he suffered a season-ending biceps tear Saturday at Tampa Bay.
Ross Tucker and Kipp Vickers also saw extensive time at right guard. Now Tucker is the leading candidate to start on the left side, though Vickers and David Loverne are close behind. Helton won't name the season's starter until next week.
In Stai, Washington seems to have found a blocker with the toughness, strength and size (6-foot-4, 312 pounds) to secure the power-oriented right side. The pickup should boost the run, which finally was established Saturday after lackluster efforts in the first three exhibitions.
"He's a very solid guy, run-blocking and pass-blocking. That was a great addition to bring him in here," said Redskins defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson, who has faced Stai several times, including in 2000 when the guard played for Jacksonville.
As Pittsburgh's 1995 third-round pick out of Nebraska, Stai entered the league with a reputation as a somewhat one-dimensional run-blocker as basically every Cornhuskers lineman does.
He believes the 1994 sidelining of Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier which allowed the more pass-oriented Brook Berringer to play much of that national title run began his evolution into an all-around blocker. Eight preseasons of tutoring from NFL line coaches, he said, completed it.
"I learned more from my offensive line coach in my first minicamp than I did my whole time at Nebraska," Stai said. "Eight years now, I've seen every stunt, every possible thing they can throw at me. I think I've developed into a pretty solid pass protector."
Nonetheless, his career grew less stable after five seasons in Pittsburgh. He was cut by the Steelers in March 2000, signed by Kansas City two months later, traded to Jacksonville that August, cut by the Jaguars in March 2001 and signed by Detroit a week later. His five-year deal ended up lasting just a season.
His teams' performances, meanwhile, also have declined; he went from starting Super Bowl XXX as a Steelers rookie to 2-14 as a Lion last season. The latter "was one of the most difficult things I've ever gone through," Stai said.
Through the tough times Stai managed to make every start the past four seasons making him a nice fit with tackle Jon Jansen, who hasn't missed a game in college or the pros.
He also developed a hardened view of the NFL, believing Detroit had an "agenda" in dealing him after expressing little displeasure with his performance. However, he's happy to have landed on a team that wants him, and in his crash course he has discovered some positives about the Redskins.
"What I feel is that all these guys in here, it's like one big family," Stai said. "You can really tell something like that when you're in a locker room. In Detroit it wasn't like that. People were always looking for who was going to be the leader. It's better to be a part of something that's on its way up than a building block."

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