- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

Rehabilitation from a torn ACL involves the occasional “bad day,” as Washington Redskins linebacker Jeremiah Trotter put it, and his last one came about two weeks ago.

After going hard on sets of squats at 455 pounds, Trotter was left with swelling in his surgically repaired knee. He had to back off, get treatment and move on to exercises that wouldn’t strain the joint — then find a way to stay positive.

“You’ve got to keep pushing,” he said after more rehab yesterday at Redskin Park. “You’ve got your good days, your bad days. There are days where, man, it doesn’t seem like it’s getting better. And there are days when you’re ready to play right now. But the further you get along, the more you work out, those good days get closer and closer together.”

The absence of recent bad days is among the reasons for increasing excitement for the talented middle linebacker, even though he won’t return to full practice until training camp in late July.

Some tactical adjustments from new coordinator George Edwards and a year in the system also make Trotter think 2003 will be the season when he shows Washington what he can do. Although he was solid much of his first year as a Redskin, he was saddled by expectations from his seven-year, $36million contract and never seemed comfortable after a rough start.

“I know without a doubt I’m going to be back to the old Trot — Pro Bowl, making 15, 16 tackles a game, making big plays,” Trotter said. “I’m excited.”

It shows. Each day he can be found on the field for Washington’s voluntary practices, or coaching sessions. He gets his strength and conditioning done while teammates are in meetings, freeing up time to be with them on the field.

At times he even participates in some non-contact drills, dropping back and cutting alongside fellow starters LaVar Arrington and Jessie Armstead. But more frequently Trotter stands aside and watches the plays, sometimes peering from behind the safeties while going over calls with defensive backs coach George Catavolos.

“I try to get out there and get behind the defense and go through my steps and my reads and my keys,” Trotter said. “I’m basically going through all the mental parts — the safeties’ calls, the D-line calls — just like if I was in there.”

When he eventually does get in there, an adjusted role could allow him more impact. Edwards, already having shifted Arrington away from duties as a third-down defensive end, seems to have made another choice popular with a player by envisioning Trotter as an attacking, rather than read-and-react, linebacker.

“[Former coordinator] Marvin [Lewis] asked me to do a lot of things that were basically out of my character, out of my game — which is attacking downhill, making things happen,” Trotter said. “But talking to George this year, he said, ‘We’re going to let you play football.’”

The other part of Trotter’s added comfort comes from a year in the system and with his teammates. He said he already has spent more time this offseason with Arrington and Armstead than he did all last year, the activities including a barbecue yesterday afternoon for the linebackers at Edwards’ house.

“The more you spend time with someone, the more comfortable you get, the more you trust them,” Trotter said. “We really know each other.”

By training camp, the Redskins expect his knee to be as healthy as his enthusiasm. He is slightly ahead of schedule in terms of his rehab, a fact made more impressive because he did it while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on the other knee.

Trotter, for his part, feels the end of rehab — and the occasional bad days — approaching.

“Now I’m able to run two or three days at time,” he said. “At the beginning, you have to work hard two or three days, then take a couple of days off. But now I can work hard every day and still come in the next day ready to go. That’s a sign of healing, strengthening and getting that endurance back.”

Notes — University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt was a guest at Redskin Park. Redskins coach Steve Spurrier, who became friends with the legendary Lady Vols coach in the late 1990s while he was coaching Florida, asked her to speak to the team before practice.

Said Summitt, who is in town as a personnel consultant for the Washington Mystics: “I said, ‘All I want to tell you is that there’s three things you can control every day in your life when you wake up. One is your attitude. Number two is your work ethic. Number three is how you take care of your body. If you do those three things, you’ll be right there in the hunt.’” …

Newly signed defensive end Peppi Zellner got plenty of work in his first practice. With veteran linemen Regan Upshaw, Dan Wilkinson, Brandon Noble, Renaldo Wynn, Bruce Smith and Jermaine Haley absent or sitting out with minor injuries, Zellner lined up at times with the first string.

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