- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The heat index was in triple digits, but Eddie Williams was smiling Monday as he came off the practice field. After nearly nine months out of action, Williams is a football player again.

On Nov. 15, the All-Western Athletic Conference tight end at Idaho was covering a punt against Boise State when he felt his right knee give way. Williams had torn his ACL and meniscus.

Just like that, his hopes of showing off for NFL scouts in an all-star game, at the combine or in an on-campus pro day vanished.

But the Washington Redskins had seen enough of Williams and were confident enough in his post-surgical reports that they chose him in the sixth round of April’s draft even though he would miss minicamp and organized team activities in the spring. With incumbent fullback Mike Sellers turning 34, the Redskins switched the 6-foot-1, 249-pounder to that position.

“No question, Eddie can play the position,” running backs coach Stump Mitchell said. “He’s tough running, blocking and receiving. You don’t have to have Mike’s size [6-3, 273] to be an effective fullback in our offense. Mack Strong weighed 245 pounds for us in Seattle and made two Pro Bowls.”

Williams just wants to make the 53-man roster.

“I’ve had to learn patience and be humble,” said Williams, who expects to wear a bulky brace to protect the knee. “The Redskins drafted me, so they knew it was going to be a process. My goal was to be ready for the start of camp, and I got it done.”

But on the first day, Williams’ left hamstring, weakened from having a graft removed and placed in his knee during the operation, began to throb. It didn’t calm down enough for him to return to full duty until Sunday. Despite missing so much practice time, Williams plans to be ready for Thursday’s preseason opener at Baltimore. With Sellers likely to play only the first quarter, the Redskins certainly could use Williams.

“I’m trying to learn the plays as quickly as I can,” said Williams, who played more H-back and receiver than fullback at Idaho. “It’s one thing to see them in the film room, but when you’re out here on the field actually doing it, it’s a whole other ballgame. It’s just the two of us fullbacks, so I can relax, take my time and learn from Mike. But I’m a different style of player. I catch the ball and make moves in open space. He blasts people.”

D. Thomas pushing himself

Devin Thomas has been sidelined the past week with a hamstring injury, just as he was for more than two weeks during his rookie summer of 2008. However, the receiver punished himself by running sprints for half an hour after morning practice in the sizzling heat on the Astroturf.

“I’m able to run pretty good,” said Thomas, who hopes to play Thursday. “I just gotta get to a point where I can come out of my breaks without it being a problem.”

Thomas isn’t worried that his absence is costing him in his battle with incumbent Antwaan Randle El and fellow second-year man Malcolm Kelly to start opposite Santana Moss.

“I’m not really concerned,” he said. “I know what I can do, and when I get out there, I’ll show it. I’ll just keep working hard so I can get back.”

Moss (hamstring), running back Anthony Alridge (toe) and offensive linemen Jeremy Bridges (ankle) and Rueben Riley (ankle) also remained sidelined.

Haynesworth the halfback

Turns out defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was once a running back and tight end.

“I didn’t just run people over either,” he said. “I could move. Then I went to junior high. I went down there with the running backs. I’m like all taller than them. [And the coach said], ‘What the hell are you thinking? Get down with the linemen.’ So I had to go and put my hand on the ground. I guess it’s worked out for me.”

Haynesworth said he played some tight end at Hartsville (S.C.) High School, catching a couple of touchdowns and helping his team make the playoffs. He was in Tennessee when Redskins offensive coordinator Sherman Smith was coaching the Titans’ running backs. Haynesworth said he took some practice reps as an extra tight end in a goal-line package.

Haynesworth said he wouldn’t pass up a chance to play on offense.

“That would be nice,” he said.

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