- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2008

In a matter of hours, Justin Hamilton went from training kids in Knoxville, Tenn., to training with NFL players.

Hamilton, whom the Cleveland Browns selected in the seventh round of the 2006 draft, just had spent four hours working with a group of six kids ages 6 to 11 at Performance Training Inc. in Knoxville when the Washington Redskins called two weeks ago.

“I was just about to start was a workout for myself when I got a call on the intercom that my agent was on the phone,” Hamilton said. “That was at like 3 o’clock, and by 7 o’clock I was in the airport on my way up here.”

The Redskins originally signed Hamilton on May 30 but released him two weeks later. With injuries mounting at safety, the Redskins brought him back Aug. 7. He had four tackles against Buffalo in his first preseason game and had three more against the New York Jets on Saturday.

“I got in on a couple of plays, but I could have played better, and I saw that on film,” Hamilton said of his play against the Jets. “I guess that is part of camp - realizing there is something you could have done better. The thing is almost making plays will have you at home on the couch watching. You’ve got to make those plays.”

Hamilton is still learning the nuances of the safety position. The 6-foot-3 Clintwood, Va., native idolized former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and envisioned himself as a running back in George’s mold when he began his college career at Virginia Tech.

He did a little bit of everything with the Hokies. They were thin at wide receiver, so he spent two seasons there. When he expected to become the team’s No. 1 wideout his junior year, coaches shifted Hamilton to running back because of tailback Mike Imoh’s suspension and Cedric Humes’ broken leg.

He didn’t have the success he expected at running back, so he talked one of the defensive coaches into letting him play safety as a senior.

“Once I got into it, I realized I could have gotten big enough to play running back, but I was a better player elsewhere,” Hamilton said. “If I could do it over again, I would have asked them from the minute I got there to either play safety or the rover position in that defense.”

Hamilton had 15 tackles as a rookie with the Browns, but the team cut him before his second year began. He has shown potential during the Redskins’ training camp, but he is an a battle with several other young safeties to make the roster.

“There were some bright spots,” defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “He’s a young guy. His big thing he’s got to show us is can he help us on special teams. The big test for him the next two weeks is that can he earn a spot on special teams. If he can, I think he’s shown us he can be a capable young backup safety that can develop over time. But for now the big challenge for him is going to be on special teams.”

Injury updates

Coach Jim Zorn talked to starting free safety LaRon Landry on Tuesday morning and said “we’re going to have to wait maybe even another week” for his hamstring to heal. Landry has been out since July 24 with a strained left hamstring.

Zorn said he would play Landry against Carolina on Saturday if he could practice later this week but wasn’t optimistic that would happen. The first-year coach said Landry’s injury has lingered “maybe even two weeks longer than we expected. We’re just trying to listen to his body.”

Reserve linebacker Matt Sinclair missed Tuesday’s practice with “a tight back,” Zorn said. Sinclair said he will visit a spinal specialist in Tysons Corner on Wednesday for the ailment, which has bothered him since March. He said he has trouble standing up straight.

Offensive tackle Stephon Heyer returned to practice Tuesday and participated fully. Wide receivers Malcolm Kelly and Anthony Mix participated in some individual drills but nothing team-oriented.

Blache uncensored

Blache had some complaints about his young players’ defense at the end of the Redskins’ 13-10 victory over the Jets on Saturday.

“At the end of the game the other night, we had some missed tackles that were just horrendous. We let a team go down the field. It was embarrassing.”

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