- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2019

RICHMOND — Donald Penn wants people to understand that he has a lot left in the tank — putting a heavy emphasis on the word “left.”

As the Redskins’ newest left tackle, the 36-year-old is back at his natural position, a year removed from switching to the right side of the line in Oakland.

Now, heading into his 14th season, the three-time Pro Bowler said he’s ready to contribute, even if it means having to replace star left tackle Trent Williams.

Standing at the podium Wednesday after practice, Penn revealed he talked to Williams about joining the Redskins before signing a contract.

The two, Penn said, are close friends and are “on the same page” about Penn’s role with Washington.

“I kind of reluctantly played right tackle last year, being a team player, but I’m a left tackle at heart,” Penn said. “I played left tackle my whole career and I wanted to go somewhere where I had a chance to start and play left tackle.”

Penn will be the logical choice to start at the spot if Wiliams’ holdout continues into the regular season. Should Williams return, Penn said he would be comfortable playing at swing tackle.

For now, there is no indication that Williams plans on returning any time soon. Team president Bruce Allen told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday that the team likes Penn, but “we still want Trent.”

That comment came as The Athletic sports site reported the Redskins are “having trade discussions” regarding Williams — adding that the New England Patriots may be involved — and NBC Sports Washington reported the Redskins are “gauging interest” from around the NFL about a potential Williams deal.

In the meantime, Penn will be responsible for learning Washington’s offense and locking down the left side of the line. The longtime veteran already has some familiarity with coach Jay Gruden’s offense as he has played multiple seasons under Gruden’s brother, Jon, in Tampa Bay and Oakland.

Gruden said he expects Penn to learn the offense in “30 minutes,” given the similarities.

“He’s just a guy who is solid in technique, he played a couple games last year and they tried to move him to right tackle, probably was not ready for that so much,” Gruden said. “[He’s] more of a left tackle I think. He is just a good, solid veteran to have.”

The Redskins first worked out Penn on Friday, though he ultimately left Richmond without a contract.

While Washington remained interested in signing him, Penn wanted to weigh his options. Penn’s family, after all, lives in Los Angeles, and moving across the country was a decision he needed to talk about with them first. Penn said he was grateful the Redskins gave him time to decide.

But Penn said he’s happy to be with Washington. He even received a text from Jon Gruden with the message: “You can’t escape the Grudens.”

To make room for Penn, the Redskins released guard Tyler Catalina a day after he exchanged punches with defensive lineman JoJo Wicker in practice. The Redskins also added another offensive lineman Wednesday in 2013 third-rounder Hugh Thornton, releasing center Casey Dunn.

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