- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 12, 2002

Sam Shade sees the future every day he comes to work. The future dresses a few lockers away. The future is taking much of his playing time. The future is named Ifeanyi Ohalete.

Strong safety Shade knows that at 29 and with a $2.708million salary cap figure for 2003, he likely won't return for a fifth Redskins season. Shade could be resentful. Instead, Shade is doing all he can to school the 23-year-old Ohalete to take his job.

"Ifeanyi is definitely playing more than he did last year, and I'm definitely not playing as much," said Shade, whose four seasons as a Washington starter are more than any current Redskins regulars except halfback Stephen Davis and defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson with five each. "That's part of the business. They're always looking to replace you with someone younger and someone cheaper.

"Sooner or later in this game, things change," Shade continued. "My first couple of years in Cincinnati, a guy named Bracey Walker played in front of me and really helped me learn to play in this league, and I'm doing the same for Ifeanyi."

Ohalete, who made the Redskins as an undrafted free agent out of Southern California last season, appreciates the grace with which Shade is handling the situation.

"Sam has been real good about it,'' said the 6-foot-2, 220-pounder, who has a couple of inches and 9 pounds on Shade. "He could have looked at it as a slap in the face, but he realized that when I go out there, I help the team. I've been learning a lot from Sam."

Ohalete did pick off a pass last season, but he played so little on defense that his nine stops on special teams were all his tackles. So even though veteran safety Keith Lyle who often spelled Shade in passing situations wasn't re-signed, neither Shade nor Ohalete really anticipated the adjustment in their status entering training camp.

"I didn't have as good a training camp and preseason as I could have had, but I've always been kind of a slow starter," Shade said. "Ifeanyi did a good job in minicamps and training camp. The coaches told me they wanted to get him on the field, and I understood. He's a big, aggressive safety and a good run stopper with good feet. He's energetic."

That enthusiasm is one reason why Ohalete is one of three Redskins, along with Eddie Mason and Kevin Mitchell, playing on all four return and coverage teams.

"I knew I would play more than last year, but I didn't expect this much," Ohalete said. "At times last year, I was a little frustrated with how little I was playing. But I played well on special teams. I take pride in that. That's 30 plays a game when you play on all four teams the way I do. That was my chance to get on the field. This year I'm getting a chance to play defense. Things are progressing, and hopefully they keep going. I hope they're grooming me to start. Whether it happens next year, the year after next or whenever, I have to capitalize on the opportunity when it happens."

Through four games, Ohalete has six tackles on defense, 10 fewer than Shade, as well as eight on special teams, tied with Mitchell for the team lead.

"Ifeanyi did a very good job in the offseason and preseason of being in the right spot and making some plays," defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis said. "If he ever makes a mistake, he's pretty quick to make the change mentally and get back on the proper page. He brings a physical presence, and he has worked hard at becoming better in coverage. He still needs to work on being able to decipher the information very quickly when the offense breaks the huddle, make the proper adjustment and direct the coverage where it needs to go.

"I hope Ifeanyi thinks he's going to be a starter. We certainly do. You don't want a guy to be complacent, satisfied with being a backup. He got his feet wet a little last year, and now he's playing more. I'm hopeful that he'll continue to take advantage of that."

As for Shade, he's more focused on victories than playing time.

"The Philadelphia and San Francisco games hurt my pride," Shade said of back-to-back losses in which the defense played poorly. "I was irritated with the way we played on defense. I'm a team player. That's the bottom line. I want to win. I've only been to the playoffs once in my [eight-year career]. I've seen a lot of guys get Super Bowl rings, and I wonder, 'Why not me? How come I can't get one?' I'm running out of time to get one."


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