- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 6, 2002

Nearly 10 years have passed since Santana Dotson made a dominant debut for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, racking up 10 sacks and winning multiple rookie-of-the-year awards. He admits he isn't the same player these days, but he thinks the Washington Redskins can expect a lot from their newest defensive tackle.
"I'm not the old Santana Dotson, but I'm not the old Santana Dotson, if you get my drift," he said with a laugh yesterday, a day after signing a one-year, minimum-salary deal. "If I knew then what I know now, I would have been a lot more successful. The older you get, the more you start film study, start reviewing your technique, the technique of offensive linemen. You become a student of the game."
That student now is attempting to prove that the Green Bay Packers went with their youth movement a bit prematurely and that he can resume the success he enjoyed for many years as one of the league's better interior pass-rushers.
Last season wasn't a washout for Dotson, now 32, but he never seemed fully recovered from a torn quadriceps tendon suffered in December 2000. His numbers were fair 13 starts for the playoff-bound Packers with 3 sacks (compared to four apiece for Washington's Dan Wilkinson and Kenard Lang, each in 16 starts) but now he expects more.
"I was full-speed, but I think the pounding of the NFL season the injury definitely lingered on," Dotson said. "The leg feels outstanding now, so I'm looking forward to being much better this year."
Green Bay cut Dotson in February and handed his job to Cletidus Hunt, a promising three-year pro who needs consistency. The move continued the organization's pattern of going with a younger player before an older player breaks down in earnest, simulating departures of defensive end John Thierry and running back Dorsey Levens.
Dotson believes the philosophy could backfire, saying, "To win in the month of December and on into the playoffs, it's going to take some veterans who have been there before, some guys who are battle-tested."
Such leadership is the first thing he mentions when asked what he brings to the Redskins. And though he looked more like a rookie trying to learn Washington's scheme during yesterday's offseason practice, teammates already respect his two trips to the title game with Green Bay and ring from Super Bowl XXXI.
"He's played in the league for many years," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "He's got a lot of experience. He's won the championship been to two, won one. So he definitely knows what it takes."
Defensive line coach Ricky Hunley compares Dotson and Wynn in terms of both work ethic and possible roles on the club.
Wynn plays left end, having replaced Marco Coleman, while Dotson figures to play tackle, mostly the one off the nose. Meanwhile, Wynn has practiced at tackle and could play there, just as Dotson played end early in his career and has spoken to coaches about returning.
"You've got to learn them all, because you always want your best players on the football field," Hunley said. "[Dotson is] kind of a [duplicate] of Renaldo, where you have to play some end, some tackle, some nose. We put him in there at every position so that if somebody goes down you've always got your best available players ready to go."
Dotson, like Wynn and Lang, succeeds at tackle with leverage and quickness. He doesn't fit the mold defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis used with the Baltimore Ravens where he had hefty Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams, the latter of whom still might join the Redskins but Dotson has learned how to use his relatively lanky frame (6-foot-5, 285 pounds) to beat blockers with lower centers of gravity.
"Football's all about leverage," Hunley said. "Low man wins."
No one expects Dotson to duplicate his rookie performance in his 11th NFL season. But he is ready to play the 65 to 75 percent snaps he got in recent years with Green Bay, either as a starter or a frequent reserve (if the Redskins pick up Adams or another quality lineman).
"It doesn't bother me [if Washington signs someone]," Dotson said. "I have always been part of a rotation. I'm too old and set in my ways to worry about who's getting their name called. I know I'm going to have an influence and a positive effect on the team, and [Ill] let the chips fall where they may."
Notes
Coleman is getting interest from as many as eight or nine teams but hasn't received any offers or made any visits. His situation appears tied to that of Baltimore free agent end Rob Burnett and, to lesser extents, Adams and Carolina end Jay Williams. One player's signing should help set the market for the others. The Miami Dolphins, the apparent front-runner for Burnett and Coleman, seem to be leaning toward picking up Burnett. Washington would like to sign one of the four, preferably Adams.


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