- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

LEESBURG, Va. — Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was front and center Monday afternoon, cracking jokes from a balcony as dozens of people filed into golf carts in the loading area below.

Kerrigan had attended the annual Leukemia Golf Classic every year since being drafted by the Redskins in 2011, but this time, the event bore his name. He raced from an early-morning workout at Redskins Park to the Lansdowne Resort, shaking hands with guests and spending time with 9-year-old Anthony Mewborn, a leukemia survivor who has been chemo-free for a year.

When team broadcaster Larry Michael asked him to headline the event, Kerrigan said it was “a no-brainer” because of the impact it leaves in the community. Organizers estimate that this year’s event raised $400,000 for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and more than 230 golfers participated.

But following in the footsteps of well-respected former hosts Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell and Brian Orakpo is also a sign of Kerrigan’s status in Washington, a transition from budding young star to franchise building block.

“I’m kind of the elder statesman in the room now,” the 26-year-old said, “as weird as it is to say.”

After Orakpo signed with the Tennessee Titans in free agency, Kerrigan will enter his fifth season in the NFL as one of the veterans in Washington’s linebacker corps. He led the Redskins with 13 1/2 sacks last season and will start opposite second-year outside linebacker Trent Murphy or rookie Preston Smith. Keenan Robinson, 25, and Perry Riley, 27, are expected to start at inside linebacker in new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s 3-4 scheme.

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Because of his age, Kerrigan has not been a very vocal leader so far in his career. He believes that will change this year.

“I enjoyed that role as a senior at Purdue when we had a lot of young guys, so I kind of embrace that,” Kerrigan said. “I think from what I’ve seen early in the offseason It’ll come out more naturally than I would expect. You look around and see you’re the guy that’s been here the longest, so you’ve got to show them the ropes.”

When asked specifically about what that entails, he said it’s as simple as speaking up when something appears out of place.

“Just trying to, I don’t know, not keep my mouth shut as much,” Kerrigan explained. “Before, my first couple years, when we were working out or whatnot, and you see a guy not doing something right, or might need a little bit of coaching, I might keep my mouth shut. But now, I want to help the guys along and say, ‘Hey, use this footwork.’ Or, ‘Do this move with your hands.’ So it’ll just be more little things like that.”

Kerrigan said his role on the field will also change slightly in Barry’s scheme. A predominantly left-sided player, he expects to move around the field more frequently in 2015 to exploit matchups or confuse opposing offenses. It will also help free up Smith, Murphy or other defenders to rush the passer.

Kerrigan is scheduled to become a free agent at the conclusion of the upcoming season, but the Redskins have spoken with his agent about an extension with the intent of keeping him in Washington long-term. Kerrigan said he is only minimally involved in the negotiations but when he last heard from his agent, it “sounded like talks were progressing pretty well.”

“There’s no timeline on it,” general manager Scot McCloughan said Monday. “Just the fact that we’re in negotiations proves that we want him to be around us for a long time. I want him to have a second contract and hopefully a third contract with the Redskins. He’s what I look for in a football player. Every day he’s there trying to make himself better.”

McCloughan stressed the importance of retaining key players with long-term deals. “We’re going to take care of our own,” he said. And as Kerrigan walked around a ballroom Monday morning, posing for pictures or joking about his minor role in “Sharknado 3,” it was clear he fits that description as well as anyone.

Kerrigan hopes he is able to stay in Washington, continue to harass opposing quarterbacks and host the Leukemia Golf Classic for many more years to come. He also is trying not to dwell on his contract situation.

“It’ll happen as it happens, but of course it’s in the back of your mind because it’s a big deal,” Kerrigan said. “It’d be a great vote of confidence from the organization. Just like getting the fifth year put on my contract last year, it’s a nice vote of confidence and makes you feel good that they want you here.”

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