- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Six months ago, Reed Doughty was a special teams player for a Washington Redskins club trying to recover from a blowout loss at New England that made a mockery of its playoff hopes.

And Doughty was troubled that his 14-month-old son, Micah, was not gaining the weight necessary to withstand much-needed kidney surgery.

Today Doughty is the starting strong safety for a Redskins team he helped take to the playoffs. And Micah is home, happy and basically healthy seven weeks after his operation.

“A lot has changed,” said Doughty, who inherited the starting job when Pro Bowl safety Sean Taylor was injured and then fatally shot in November. “Sean took my mind-set to a whole new level of what I can do conditioning-wise, studying-wise, really putting the time and effort in, wanting the extra reps at practice. This job is a privilege, and I want to take care of this opportunity the best that I possibly can.”

Doughty, chosen in the sixth round of the 2006 draft out of Division I-AA Northern Colorado, had made just three tackles in 1½ years with the Redskins before Taylor got hurt. He made some plays on special teams but still was an afterthought to the high-flying Taylor and standout rookie safety LaRon Landry.

When Tony Romo and Terrell Owens ripped the secondary apart in Dallas on Nov. 18, it seemed Doughty wasn’t up to the task of even filling in for Taylor.

However, Doughty played better the next Sunday and was so solid in the six games that followed Taylor’s death that the Redskins didn’t pursue a free agent safety once Will Demps re-signed with Houston and haven’t made a move to retain veterans Pierson Prioleau or Omar Stoutmire.

The Redskins chose safeties Kareem Moore and Chris Horton in last weekend’s draft, but those players were taken late on the second day — meaning they’re not seen as immediate threats to Doughty’s starting job.

“Everybody’s very happy with Reed,” executive vice president Vinny Cerrato said. “He really came on and played well. He does a good job [covering] the tight ends. He’s physical. He does a real good job on special teams. The coaches are very comfortable with Reed as their safety.”

Not that Doughty assumes the job is his long term.

“I don’t look at it like they’re handing me the job,” Doughty said. “I’m going to try to validate why I got to play last year. If I keep improving and play the way that I know I can, I feel I can be the starter.”

But Doughty, 25, knows he can never truly replace Taylor, who was such a gifted athlete and feared hitter.

“People saw what could have been with LaRon and Sean,” Doughty said. “You were looking at two of the most talented, young safeties in the NFL. It’s hard for people to go from that to me being a solid player. I’m not Sean. There’s a reason he got taken fifth overall. He had the blend of size and speed that really hadn’t been seen before. I hope to make a name for myself as a very solid, all-around safety.”

As for Micah, he received a kidney from his mother, Katie, on March 10 at Children’s Hospital. The transplant went well and Katie was fine, but Micah immediately developed breathing problems that forced a grueling three-week stay in the hospital and 24-hour bedside vigils.

“It was a really exhausting emotionally, physically and spiritually three weeks,” said Doughty, who used Redskin Park workouts as breaks. “They had to put a lot of fluid in Micah to make sure the kidney was hydrated. He looked like the Michelin man. The fluid overloading caused some tracheal swelling. He was struggling pretty bad to breathe for three or four days. It was the hardest thing I’ve witnessed. You don’t want to see your child suffer like that.”

Micah later developed two infections and had to return to the hospital. He’s fine now but can’t be around young children or sick people for another two months because of the danger of further infections. However, the Doughtys plan to take Micah to Disney World in late June.

“Micah’s still small, but that’s not really a concern anymore,” Doughty said. “He’s eating a lot. He’s gained weight. The medicines get a little old, but he’s doing phenomenal.”

His father is doing pretty well, too.

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