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The Offensive Line Gets Used To Chris Samuels, Coach (And To Someone Else Wearing 60)

Posted by Matt Terl on May 21, 2010 – 2:28 pm

Redskins seventh-round draft choice Selvish Capers is learning a lot as he gets used to life on the professional level.

“It’s different,” Capers says. “It’s a lot faster, there’s a lot more that they’re putting in and installing at one time, but I can pick it up. The veterans are there helpin’ me out throughout the process. I’ve been grateful and it’s been fun.”

And Capers isn’t just dealing with the usual rookie whiplash. He’s also wearing number 60, which — for the entire last decade — belonged to all-pro, all-star, all-everything left tackle Chris Samuels.

The pressure doesn’t daunt Capers, though. “Not really,” he says. “Not much. I just keep hearin’ that I’m wearin’ a big-time jersey, and it’s probably gonna be retired, and all this other stuff. We’ll see what happens.”

So far, the only thing that’s happened is that his teammates are slightly confused. I ask center Casey Rabach how he feels about seeing someone else wearing 60 after all this time.

He says, “Who is?”

Selvish Capers, I say.

“Who?”

Capers. Seventh-round pick.

Rabach looks perplexed. “Is he an O-lineman?”

I’m midway through an explanation of Capers — converted tight end out of West Virginia, blah blah blah — when Rabach interrupts to let me know that he was just kidding and offer his actual thoughts about seeing someone else in the six-zero.

“It’s real strange,” Rabach says. “We miss him, he’s a great guy, but I guess it all comes to an end sometimes.”

Second-year guard Edwin Williams never got to play in a pro game with Samuels, and only practiced with him during last year’s pre-season and the first part of the regular season. But Williams grew up a Redskins fan, so he can definitely understand why I’m asking this question.

“It’s a little different,” Williams says, “especially when we’re on scout team and Casey says slip-60 or mike-60, ’cause I’m like” — his voice goes wistful — “‘That’s Chris!’ And that was my number in college, too, so it’s always been weird to hear it.”

(And if you guessed that Redskins-fan-Edwin chose number 60 precisely BECAUSE of Chris Samuels … well, you win the big stuffed hog. “A little bit because of Chris, yeah,” Williams says, before quickly adding, “Never will I tell him that.”)

Having Samuels absent from the left side of the line is simultaneously more and less weird, because Samuels is still out there on the practice field. He’s working with the coaching staff as part of the NFL Coaching Intern program, offering advice to the new kid wearing his number — and to everyone else as well.

And Williams is thrilled to be learning from him. “He’s the best,” Williams says. “His credibility is already through the sky with me. He knows what he’s talking about. He’s always been a student of the game and I appreciate him being here for us. And some of the older guys just like having him around, so that’s good stuff.”

Free-agent offensive line acquisition Artis Hicks is pleased to finally be learning from Samuels in person.

“A lot of times already he’s given me advice about how to set, how to get my hands on guys,” Hicks says. “It means a lot coming from him — I mean, the guy was a great player. I studied him even back when I was in college. I used to watch him play because he was the best tackle, man, and you always want to learn from the best.”

Just about everyone I asked expressed similar sentiments … except Rabach. I asked Rabach if Samuels — a guy who played one body-width away for years — had tried to impart some advice, and he shook his head.

“No, he’s attached at the hip to the big-time, Trent [Williams],” Rabach said. “He’s attached to that kid. I don’t know if he’s trying to get some money off him or what.”

Rabach was kidding again, obviously.

Samuels is attached at the hip with Trent Williams because … well, when you’ve got a franchise bookend tackle coaching, who better to work with the guy you hope is your franchise bookend of the future.

“He’s just talking to me,” Trent Williams says, “helping me not to make the same mistakes he did his rookie year. He’s been a great help to me with pretty much everything, just getting acclimated to being a pro. He’s helping me out a lot.”

And the 21-year-old Williams thinks it’s beneficial to have someone so recently removed from the playing field in that role. “He’s right out of it,” the rookie left tackle says, “so he’s got a lot of fresh information for me.”

In the end, though, what Trent Williams thinks about Chris Samuels is probably less significant to the future of this team than what Samuels thinks of Williams.

Before we get to that, though: Samuels is adjusting well to the grinding workload of being on the other side of the ball on the practice field.

“It’s really fun,” he says. “It’s a lot of hours, but I’m enjoying every bit of it and I’m learning a lot. Coach [Chris] Foerster’s a great offensive line coach, he’s been around a long time. And one thing that I knew is that once I retired and wanted to get into the coaching, just because I played the game at a high level doesn’t mean that I can just automatically be a great coach. So I’m in a great position to where I’m learning from a great offensive line coach.”

He downplays his involvement in the actual coaching — “I’m pretty much just reiterating what Coach Foerster’s teaching, his techniques and everything,” he says — and believes that there are fundamentals he can teach that matter regardless of a player’s individual ability level.

“True enough,” Samuels says, “some guys are a little more athletic than other ones, but technique-wise it’s never gonna change. Keep your head back, tight hands, great footwork. And if those guys can get that down, they can pretty much do their assignments successfully.”

Which brings us back to the big question: is big-ticket rookie Trent Williams getting that stuff down?

Samuels doesn’t even hesitate. “Oh, no doubt,” he says. “He’s a talented guy. He’s gonna be really good.”


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