- The Washington Times - Friday, September 9, 2005

The giant spike of the football officially welcomed Jon Jansen back to the Washington Redskins.

Jansen already had played preseason games against Carolina and Cincinnati, but he didn’t truly feel he was back until late in the second quarter of the Redskins’ contest against Pittsburgh on Aug.[ThSp]26.

Moments after Chris Cooley’s leaping touchdown catch, Jansen [-] all 6 feet, 6 inches and 308 pounds of him [-] chased down the rolling football, picked it up, took a couple of hops and planted it into the FedEx Field turf.

“It’s a party when you get into the end zone,” Jansen said after practice earlier this week. “The linemen are the guys that help you get there. Give us the ball and have us spike it.”

Two days away from his first regular-season game in 622 days, Jansen is ready to party again. He ruptured his Achilles tendon in the first quarter of the first preseason game last year, ending his season.

“It’s like my return to the big leagues,” he said. “It’s definitely going to be a little extra special for me.”

The last time Jansen played a real game, the Redskins were pummeled by Philadelphia 31-7 on Dec.[ThSp]27, 2003. Randy Thomas is still to Jansen’s left, but a lot of other faces have changed since that night. Coach Steve Spurrier is at South Carolina, Champ Bailey is in Denver, Fred Smoot in Minnesota, Laveranues Coles in New York with the Jets and Trung Canidate in parts unknown.

The Eagles game was Jansen’s 80th NFL contest and 80th start, giving him the well-earned nickname, “The Rock.” Couple that with 50 straight starts at Michigan and Jansen was one of the most durable players in the NFL.

“The guy brings a lot of passion,” said Ray Brown, the 20-year veteran who replaced Jansen last year. “And he’s a unique guy in that when he brings the passion, he will inspire other guys to bring it as well. That’s something a lot of guys in the locker room missed last year, because he’s been an anchor for this organization.”

Indeed, Jansen was the face of the Redskins roster, and nobody was happier when Joe Gibbs came out of retirement and brought Joe Bugel with him.

While Gibbs’ return was developing into a 6-10 mess, Jansen was going through a rigorous rehabilitation, primarily in his home state of Michigan, where he was able to spend Christmas at home for the first time since high school.

Jansen expected to feel detachment, and it was exacerbated when the Redskins’ offense was stuck in a season-long rut that saw them finish 30th in scoring.

“The coaches and players have their immediate concerns and things they’re working on, and for me, it was all about [2005],” he said. “I didn’t want to get in their way or be a burden on them, so I tried to isolate myself even further.”

Jansen would return to the area on weekends to watch home games from a skybox at FedEx Field and observed several practices once he was out of his cast in November, standing alongside Bugel.

The watching frustrated him because “I wasn’t a part of the problem, so I couldn’t be a part of the solution. [EnLeader] I do want to coach at some point, but I’m not ready for that yet because I still feel I can get out there and do things.”

Jansen was given full clearance in late January and participated in all the Redskins’ offseason workouts. Though he was fine physically, it took a few games for Jansen to feel sharp mentally.

“This year I was really glad we had four preseason games,” he said. “The first two, I didn’t have the rhythm I wanted [-] being an athlete in this environment didn’t feel comfortable. Getting that back was the hardest thing, and I felt I got it back in the Pittsburgh game.”

Said Bugel: “It’s a lot of time to miss. But he had a tremendous training camp. I really believe he can be a super player, one of the top five tackles in the NFL.”

Last year’s tribulations are why Jansen isn’t going to let something as minute as a broken left thumb slow him down. He will wear a soft cast for four to six weeks, but it won’t hinder his play.

“I’m not going to be able to throw my long touchdown pass,” he cracked.

Jansen is doing a lot of smiling these days. Don’t expect him to hold back any of his abundant enthusiasm against the Bears.

“That’s the beauty of being a lineman,” he said with a smile. “You get to come off the ball and hit somebody on every play. There is no harnessing of [energy]. You go out and let it roll.”

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