- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 3, 2006

After establishing himself as a Pro Bowl player in 2004, his first season with the Redskins, Marcus Washington wasn’t chosen for a return trip to Hawaii last season. The snub might have rankled Washington’s teammates and coaches, but it didn’t fluster the strong side linebacker even though his stats were improved.

“I’m not motivated by the Pro Bowl,” Washington said. “I don’t say, ‘I didn’t make it last year so I’m going to go really hard’ or ‘I made it last year so I’m already where I want to be.’ [Indianapolis] coach [Tony] Dungy always said, ‘Never believe you’re as good as someone says and never believe you’re as bad as someone says.’ The Pro Bowl was fun. I’d like to go back. But last year was a better year because we made the playoffs.”

The Redskins certainly wouldn’t have ended their five-year postseason drought without Washington, who was second on the defense in tackles (93), sacks (7) and turnovers caused (five).

“Marcus had a better year,” linebackers coach Dale Lindsey said. “He had that little surgery [to remove a cyst in the spring], so we told him that he wasn’t in as good shape at minicamp as he was his first year. He said, ‘I’m going to show y’all.’ He stayed here all summer. And he showed us. That’s the kind of guy he is. Marcus isn’t overly talented, but nobody works harder. Nobody takes better notes. Nobody’s more conscientious about correcting what has been done wrong. If you say something to him in the meeting, you can bet that it’s going to happen out here on the field.”

In truth, with three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington gone to the New York Giants, Washington — the only member of the unit to have gone to the Pro Bowl in burgundy and gold — is the face of the Redskins’ defense.

“I don’t know about that,” Washington said. “We have a lot of faces. Everyone has stepped up on different Sundays. [Defensive tackle] Cornelius Griffin, [safety] Sean Taylor. … There’s not that pressure to put the team on your back and carry it. We have so many guys that can step up and say, ‘I’m going to make the play.’”

Maybe, but when Lindsey wants to show the proper way to perform a task, he calls on Washington.

“Marcus knows exactly what to do and gets it done to the letter,” Lindsey said. “I use him as a role model for everyone else. [The other day], we had a couple of guys that didn’t blitz very well. A couple of plays later, Marcus blitzed. I said, ‘If you want to know how to blitz, this is how you do it.’ Marcus didn’t have anything the other guys didn’t, but he used what he had. I liked Marcus when he was coming out of Auburn [in 2000] and he has done more things than I thought he could back then. He has excelled in all phases. We got him just when he was starting to take off as a linebacker.”

Washington has certainly justified the six-year, $24 million contract the Redskins gave him to leave the Colts two years ago. And not only has he played well, he has developed into a leader.

As Lindsey said: “Marcus is always jovial. He’s always talking. He’s got tons of energy. He never has a down day.”

It was Washington and running back Clinton Portis who went to coach Joe Gibbs when the Redskins had slipped to 5-5 last November and suggested the switch to all-white uniforms. Six straight victories later, the Redskins were in Seattle for the divisional playoffs, two victories from the Super Bowl.

“When you’re down, sometimes you have to go on a shopping spree and change your wardrobe a little bit,” Washington said. “All-white is fresh and pure. It was like starting over with a clean slate.”

But Washington doesn’t forget the past. At 29, in his mind, he’s still the poor kid selling programs at Auburn.

“Football means a lot to me,” Washington said. “I don’t take it for granted. Playing in the NFL is a privilege. We had a lot of athletes in my hometown who could’ve gone on to college or play in the NFL, but you would go to the recreation center and hear them talking about what they could’ve done or should’ve done. I didn’t want to be one of those type people. I wanted to go out, work hard and do my best. I do try to be enthusiastic, but I try to lead by example. Talking only goes so far.”

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