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Monday, November 2: Peter King Makes Me Feel Guilty

Posted by Matt Terl on November 2, 2009 – 8:52 am

So the bye weekend yielded its usual funny joke: “Hey, the Redskins didn’t lose this weekend!”

I heard this line, with slight variations, all weekend. From people I know and people I don’t. From family members. From waiters. This morning, from staff at my kid’s daycare.

But here’s the thing: the Redskins kind of did manage to lose this weekend.

On Saturday, the team made the expected move and put left tackle Chris Samuels on injured reserve. Because this was expected, because of the rumored retirement and the initial reports weeks ago that his career might be done, there wasn’t much fanfare around the move.

This was a mistake; there should’ve been. It’s not just a loss on the field — although it’s certainly a HUGE loss there, as Mister Irrelevant has mentioned — but a loss in the locker room, and … just a loss in general. And it was — of all people — SI.com’s Peter King who put this the best, in this morning’s Monday Morning Quarterback.

“Two very good tackles — Chris Samuels and Walter Jones — are nearing the end, and that shouldn’t be something just in small type this weekend,” he started, making me feel hugely guilty.

Samuels was drafted by the Redskins third overall in 2000 to be their left tackle for a decade. He almost made it. He’s started 141 of 150 games, playing through painful shoulder, knee, ankle, back and neck injuries. But now, having been advised he risks his long-term health if he continues to play with a neck injury, he’ll sit the rest of the season. Many of his teammates think he’s played his last game.

I followed Samuels in 2000 during the run-up to the draft and through training camp — in part because SI wanted to do a you-are-there story on a top prospect as he prepared to leave the cocoon of college and enter the pressure of playing right away in the NFL, and in part because of the rise in importance of left tackles. Michael Lewis tells the tale of the value of a left tackle superbly in The Blind Side, and I credit him for seeing what the game has become. Tackle has joined quarterback and pass-rusher as the three most important cornerstone positions for NFL teams.

But as I followed Samuels, I saw not only a good player but also a compelling and conscientious person. The day before the draft, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on Broadway, he twice turned away the housekeeper who wanted to make up the room. “It’s OK,” he said. “I got it.” He’d already made his bed, tidied the room and straightened up the bathroom, hanging the towels neatly on the rack.

In training camp, Bruce Smith and Dana Stubblefield took it upon themselves to school the rook and make his life miserable on and off the field. He took the taunts and the hazing through mini-camps, but determined he wouldn’t take it once the real practices started. It took just one practice for Samuels to fight back, taking Stubblefield on a wide rush and, when Stubblefield popped him in the forehead, Samuels cold-cocked him with a roundhouse right to the neck, just below the helmet. He knew as the cornerstone of the offensive line, he had to be a fighter and defend not only his turf but his peers’. He became one of the go-to guys on the team.

More at the link, all of it worth reading. Samuels will be missed, and hopefully he’ll find a way to prove wrong those early rumors about retirement.

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