- The Washington Times - Monday, May 5, 2008

Experience must count for something for Phillip Daniels and Cornelius Griffin, starters on the left side of the Washington Redskins’ defensive line.

The team showed its faith in the aging duo by not pursuing any players at their spots in free agency and by not using a draft pick on a lineman until the seventh round.

Daniels, an end, turned 35 in March. He missed a game last year with a sprained foot after having both ankles and a wrist surgically repaired before the season. Griffin, a tackle, is a relatively youthful 31, but he had arthroscopic knee surgery in January after being plagued by hip and shoulder injuries in 2005 and 2006.

“The main thing for me and Griff is that we feel good,” Daniels said. “We were able to start lifting early. We can help this team out a lot more now that we’re healthy. This is the best I’ve felt in a long time. I’ve got no problem with my wrist or my ankles. It’s going to be a good year.”

The 6-foot-3, 311-pound Griffin said he’s leaner after being able to work out throughout the offseason for the first time in three years, including weeks at a performance-enhancing facility in Florida.

The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Daniels looked quicker in the just-completed minicamp to defensive coordinator Greg Blache, his coach the last eight years, after powerlifting competitively for the first time since 1999. Daniels won his weight class with a 633-pound squat and a 600-pound dead-lift at the American Powerlifting Federation nationals.

“That was in March, so who knows what I can lift now?” Daniels said. “I took two weeks off [after the wild card loss at Seattle], and I went right into powerlifting. I hadn’t done this since just before my last year in Seattle, and I had a [career-high nine sacks]. The injuries and the surgeries I had the last couple of years took a lot of my strength away. I couldn’t work out the way I wanted to. I’m going to prove all the people wrong who don’t think I can do it anymore. I was 273 [pounds] last year and I didn’t have the strength I’ve got now. I feel good. I’m out there flying by people.”

Unlike the lankier Daniels, the naturally more massive Griffin doesn’t believe in lifting the most weight possible.

“Everything I do translates to the football field,” said Griffin, who has been working out twice daily for around two hours a session. “If I’m doing 500-pound, 600-pound squats, how does that translate to football? I’ve been eating right to get my body back healthy.”

And Griffin didn’t see any point in being in tip-top shape for a noncontact minicamp with training camp more than two months away and the season opener another two months beyond that.

“This is my ninth year, and I wanted to try something different,” Griffin said of leaving his Alabama home to train in Pensacola. “My knee feels fine. I think I look good. I feel strong. I’m a little leaner. My body fat’s down. You increase body fat, you increase injuries. I want to peak at the right time. You can peak too early. I want to be ready to go in July and maintain a high standard of conditioning, nutrition and workouts throughout the season.”

Griffin played in every game last season for the first time since his career year of 2004, but he slipped from 50 tackles to 42. Daniels’ 37 tackles and 2½ sacks were down from the 48 stops and eight sacks he produced in 2005.

“People forget this is the same D-line that stopped Dallas for 1 yard [on 16 carries in the season finale], the same D-line that shut down Adrian Peterson,” Daniels said. “We do a lot of good things. We just don’t get to the quarterback as much as people want.”

And Griffin said the age of the left side of the D-line shouldn’t matter.

“With a veteran, you know what you’re going to get,” Griffin said. “We know how to work. We know how to do things the right way. And we know where to be in the defense. A young guy may have great talent, but some things up top are not all together. If I’m in great shape, I think the Redskins are a lot better.”

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