- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chris Samuels never finished any of his previous seasons the way he did in 2008: on injured reserve.

The torn right triceps that ended his season and his approaching 32nd birthday prompted the left tackle to make some major changes heading into his 10th season with the Washington Redskins.

After hearing ex-teammate Shawn Springs rave for years about Performance Enhancement Professionals in Scottsdale, Ariz., and seeing buddy Derrick Dockery look better than ever last summer after an offseason working there, Samuels decided 2009 would be his year to give former Canadian Olympian Ian Danney’s training program a try.

The result? Samuels will play at 305 pounds this year, 13 lighter than in 2008.

“I wanted to do something different,” Samuels said. “I really liked the way he focused on my glutes and my core. He rehabbed those things, strengthened those things and then he started working me out. There’s a short rest time between each set. We really didn’t run much until the last three or four weeks. And because I hadn’t been here [except for offseason workouts], I felt mentally fresh coming to the facility.”

As the Redskins kick off the preseason Thursday at the Baltimore Ravens, Samuels will begin to learn whether his triceps - and his left knee, which was scoped during the offseason and needed fluid drained from it last week - is fully recovered and whether his newfound commitment will pay off in a return to his Pro Bowl form. His decision to give up beer helped Samuels lose nearly 30 pounds from his peak offseason weight of 334.

“Last year was tough,” said Samuels, who admitted he really didn’t deserve to make his sixth Pro Bowl after missing four games and not faring well in a couple of others. “I’ve always worked hard in the offseason except for one or two of my younger years when I got a little bit relaxed, but I liked to go out and have a good time drinking. That was just a lot of empty calories that I was putting on. I just really had to focus up on my career. … Once I made my mind up, that was it. It wasn’t really hard for me to give up the alcohol.”

The Redskins believe that Samuels, despite his age, will be an elite player again in 2009, thanks in part to the loss of weight and to that focus on being in tiptop shape.

“Chris takes the offseason a lot more serious now,” said left guard Dockery, who joined his pal in Scottsdale and will line up next to him again after playing the past two years in Buffalo. “As you get older, it’s imperative that you take care of your body, make sure that you’re in top-notch condition, that you’re physical, you’re strong, you’re fast, you’re explosive. That’s what I see with Chris. He’s a pro. He knows what it takes.”

Dockery said Samuels is a little wiser and a little older. Offensive line coach Joe Bugel isn’t worried about the latter, raving about Samuels’ performance in camp and saying, “He’s moving like a cat.”

That agility is what has helped separate Samuels from other left tackles during his nine seasons in the NFL, and it will be critical if the Redskins are to handle formidable defenses like those of the New York Giants, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles and make the playoffs for just the third time during Samuels’ career.

“You just don’t worry about [left tackle],” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said. “You put [Chris] there, and you can be concerned about other things. He’s serious about football. He’s tough. He really knows how to punch. His footwork, his ability to change directions [is elite]. He can run down the field and change like a lighter guy. That’s pretty amazing for as big as he is.”

Even when there’s 13 pounds - and more than a few six-packs - less of him.

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