- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 25, 2004

For eight seasons, Phillip Daniels has made a living in the NFL as a 6-foot-3, 288-pound defensive end. Not that he’s unwilling to help out anywhere else on the football field.

“If the Redskins need an emergency kicker, hey, I’m available,” said Daniels, who as a senior in high school was named team MVP as a kicker/punter/quarterback/linebacker. “I’ll do anything. Play tight end, kick — whatever they need.”

For now, the Redskins would be content simply to get Daniels healthy and in the starting lineup at his natural right end position. An abdominal strain suffered during minicamp earlier this summer left him a spectator for Washington’s first three preseason games, and it will keep him there Friday night against St. Louis.

The club remains confident Daniels will be ready to go once the regular season begins Sept.12. And if you believe the coaching staff, Daniels’ presence in the huddle could have a huge impact on a defense trying to shed its downtrodden image of a year ago.

“We’re a lot different when he’s in there,” assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams said this week. “We’ve made some improvements, but I think we’re significantly better when he’s on the field.”

Daniels won’t be worried if he misses the entire preseason. He’s played in at least 13 games in each of his eight professional seasons (four with Seattle, four with Chicago), and he believes he can jump right into the fray with little practice time.

“To tell you the truth, I don’t need no games,” he said. “I’m a vet. This is my ninth season. I know how to play football. They need me in September more than they need me right now. I can’t be stupid, go out there and injure myself now when they need me more when it counts.”

Daniels’ history of reliability was one of the main reasons the Redskins shelled out $12.4million over four years for the unrestricted free agent this spring. Released by the Bears despite a mildly productive season (64 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Daniels was scooped up immediately by Greg Blache, his defensive coordinator in Chicago and now a member of Joe Gibbs’ staff in Washington.

The two had a feeling they would be reunited when they met the day after the season, just before the Bears fired Blache and cut Daniels. Daniels recalls telling his position coach he didn’t think Chicago would bring him back for another year.

Blache’s response: “They’d be stupid not to. You’re the best D-lineman they’ve got.”

Blache then promised Daniels he would always have a job for one of his favorite players. Less than a month later, Blache welcomed Daniels to Redskin Park for his introductory press conference.

“Greg looked out for me,” Daniels said. “He knew what kind of player I am. He knows I work hard, go out there and fight and I don’t make mistakes. I’m a guy he can depend on.”

To see the way Blache’s eyes light up when talking about the 31-year-old Daniels, you would think he was talking about his own son.

“The only way I can explain it is he’s a real professional,” Blache said. “He’s a plus in the huddle; he’s a plus in the locker room. He’s just a real solid person who brings a lot to the table.”

Daniels isn’t the kind of player who gets a lot of recognition, especially for someone who plays a glamour position like right end. Though he twice has recorded nine sacks in a season, his career average is only 5.5. He has never made a Pro Bowl. He’s often asked merely to stop the run or take on a blocker and free up space for a linebacker to make a play.

“I’m an unselfish player, and I don’t get the credit for it,” he said. “But who cares about credit? As long as we win games, that’s the only thing that I’m concerned about. Not Pro Bowls, not that other stuff. When it’s all said and done, all they want to know is, did you get the [championship] ring? And I feel like this is my best opportunity to get it here.”

It is perhaps no coincidence that Daniels was the man the Redskins chose to replace Bruce Smith at right end. You won’t find Daniels sacrificing run coverage in an effort to break a sack record. And you won’t find him parading around the locker room in a burgundy robe with the words “All-Time” emblazoned on the back.

“I talked to some of the guys, and I don’t know if Bruce played a whole lot last year other than to just get the sack record,” Daniels said. “I came here to be a leader, a guy that’s going to play every down if they need me to.”

Even if the Redskins need him to kick a field goal in an emergency.

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