- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2006

Casey Rabach will never forget the feeling.

It was March 31, and he was cleaning up some yard debris when his garden tractor flipped over, pinning his left leg underneath.

Rabach was able to push the vehicle off and get back to his house, but his lower leg was cut to the bone. His wife, Nicole, called 911 and the paramedics didn’t deliver good news with their temporary patching.

“They told me I might have ruptured an artery,” Rabach said. “I’m thinking my career is over. They scared the [heck] out of me. But once we got to the hospital, the doctors let me know it wasn’t that bad and that I would be fine. I was very relieved, to say the least.”

So, too, were the Redskins.

“That was probably the scariest of our injuries,” coach Joe Gibbs said. “The thing was so long. It was kind of a brutal deal. I was worried about that all the way to [the start of] camp.”

Rabach had a couple of setbacks during his recovery, at one point requiring a skin graft. But his linemates never worried that he wouldn’t be back, especially once he made it onto the field during Organized Team Activity days in late spring.

“It was pretty ugly, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen,” left guard Derrick Dockery said. “If it was a movie, it would’ve been rated R. But Casey’s a hard-nosed guy. He came right back.”

And perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that the Redskins made the playoffs for the first time in six years after they signed Rabach away from the Baltimore Ravens in March 2005.

The 6-foot-4, 301-pound Rabach isn’t a Pro Bowl-level center, but there’s no denying that he is a winner. The Redskins and Ravens are 24-15 with him in the lineup, 12-13 when he’s not. Wisconsin went to the Rose Bowl in Rabach’s sophomore and junior years after doing so just once in the previous 34 years, and the Badgers haven’t been back since.

“Casey’s super smart,” Gibbs said. “He makes the calls inside, and he’s been a real plus for us. He’s one of the guys I talk about when you talk about [succeeding in] free agency.”

Rabach, 28, is athletic enough to have started at guard for the Ravens, but his success is mostly a product of the work ethic instilled in him by his parents in Sturgeon Bay, Wis. (pop. 9,437). Rabach’s father, Gary, also was his high school football coach.

“People can get complacent when they get big contracts, but complacency just isn’t in my nature,” said Rabach, who is in the second year of a five-year, $13.75 million contract. “I never had anything given to me. I had to work all through high school. I worked construction. I was a cook, a dishwasher, a busboy. My dad pushed me harder than most high school players were pushed, but that helped make me who I am today.

“I thought my teammates might think my dad favored me, so I was always the first one on the field and in the weight room and the last one to leave.”

Despite the birth of his first child in March 2005, Rabach worked hard last offseason to get to know the offense and his linemates. He expects to be an improved player this fall.

“They handed me the keys to the offensive line and I didn’t want to let anybody down,” Rabach said. “I’ll be better this year. I’m very comfortable with my surroundings. On a ‘Ram’ call, I know [guard] Randy [Thomas] is going turn his shoulder on a three technique and [Dockery] is going to have my backside. We know that kind of stuff. That’s huge. Ask any offensive lineman what’s most important and he’ll tell you continuity. You can react without talking.”

Rabach, who also had a shoulder repaired in February, doesn’t do as much talking as Thomas and tackle Jon Jansen. But he made a bold prediction about where the Redskins will finish this season: the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 years.

“From when I was laying on the ground with my leg split open thinking my career is over to being out here running around with the guys will make going to Miami even sweeter,” Rabach said.

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