- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 9, 2008

There has been plenty of praise for Chad Rinehart’s play in his first NFL training camp - he just isn’t sure it’s warranted.

The Washington Redskins‘ third-round pick from Northern Iowa has been singled out for his work on the offensive line by his head coach, his position coach and several of the veterans he will be charged with spelling him when necessary this season.

“I have high expectations for myself,” Rinehart said. “I’ve been more frustrated with myself than pleased. I really can’t say it’s been as good of a camp as I expect. … I guess the first week went well, and then last week was kind of a struggle a little bit. It is just frustrating going out there [when I’m] used to being the best on the team and coming out here [when] I’m not.”

Rinehart likely will see plenty of action Saturday night against Buffalo in the Redskins’ first home preseason game. Reserve tackles Stephon Heyer and Todd Wade won’t play because of injuries they suffered Sunday in the first preseason game against Indianapolis.

Once starters Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen make an early exit, Rinehart and undrafted free agent Devin Clark will take over as the team’s bookends.

“You’re going to see a lot of Rinehart on Saturday night and on the right side, you’re going to see a lot of Devin Clark,” offensive line coach Joe Bugel said. “‘Who’s he?’ you’re going to say. He’s a young man from New Mexico and the past couple of days he’s really picked it up. I’m anxious to see him play - I’m anxious to see both of the young kids play.”

What has Rinehart done to impress Bugel, one of the league’s foremost offensive line authorities?

“Football intelligence - he is a smart and a tough guy,” Bugel said. “He’s not intimidated, and the game’s not too big for him. Great preparation - he takes immaculate notes in the meetings. He really wants to be a real good football player. He spends a lot of time watching Chris Samuels, which is a real plus. He’s learning on the job, and he’s done a great job.”

Rinehart started 37 games at left tackle in his career at Northern Iowa and earned All-America honors his senior season. When the Redskins drafted him 96th overall in April, they envisioned him as a versatile member of their offensive line.

When camp started, Rinehart saw the majority of his practice reps at left guard with a little bit of work at left tackle and right guard as well. Now with Heyer and Wade hurting, he’s back at his natural position.

“I think playing left guard and right guard is not that big of a deal to switch back and forth,” Rinehart said. “It is not like you have a staggered stance. I haven’t played any right tackle - that might be a harder adjustment if they wanted me to play out there. That would take some time.”

Last season Heyer started five games as a rookie and Jason Fabini 13 because of injuries. Rinehart’s accelerated learning curve in his first season could give Washington extra depth on the line.

“The best thing he has done is he has come in and listened,” Jansen said. “He listens to [Coach Bugel], which is the No. 1 guy he has to listen to. He’s asked questions. He listens to the veterans. He’s really come in and expressed a huge interest in learning about being the NFL.”

Although he grew up 15 miles from Iowa State’s campus, the Cyclones - and every other Division I-A school in the Midwest - passed on Rinehart, so he made the move northeast to Cedar Falls. There, with the help of position coach Rick Nelson, both he and fellow offensive lineman Brandon Keith developed into NFL draft picks (Arizona selected Keith in the seventh round).

Now Rinehart has landed in another spot advantageous to his development, and the Redskins hope they have found a small-school gem who could pay dividends for years to come.

“It is definitely a great place for me,” Rinehart said. “They’ve got seven guys who have started almost 100 games or more. I just can look at any one of them to see how I need to carry myself, and I have a coach that is respected around the league and commands respect from the players every day.”

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