When Giants defensive lineman Barry Cofield dressed in the visiting locker room at FedExField on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2011, he knew there was a decent chance he would not return to New York as a free agent.
At the time, he had no idea that he would become well-acquainted with the home locker room in Washington.
Cofield spent the ensuing locked-out offseason preparing for an unknown future. As a result, Cofield diversified his workouts, preparing for the possibility of work as a 4-3 or 3-4 tackle or end, four very different positions.
"I'm bigger than the 306 [pounds] than I was at the combine, so I'm not the smallest guy on the field," Cofield explained. "But I had no idea [where I would be], so I didn't know how to train. I was just trying to be in shape."
Eventually signed as the starting nose tackle in Washington, Cofield had to learn a playbook and position he had never played, in a condensed offseason.
"It was a growing process, and I gave myself some leeway for that," he remembered. "But honestly, I go back and review myself last year, and I've played a lot better than that."
Cofield finished the season with 63 tackles, six for a loss, three sacks, and a fumble recovery--all solid numbers for a nose tackle.
One area that Cofield especially excelled in was batting balls at the line of scrimmage, leading all NFL nose tackles with nine passes defensed. This was good for fourth on the Redskins' defense and first for linemen.
"It's not as sexy as getting a sack; you don't really get to celebrate a lot after a batted pass," Cofield said with a smile. "You get to the huddle, and you get a high-five. That's it. But [defensive line] Coach Burney loves that.
"A batted ball is very frustrating for a quarterback, frustrating for an offensive lineman because their coach is always telling them to keep those hands down," he explained. "Every once in a while you can bat one in the air, and it can be an interception, so it's a big play."
Even in a season that Cofield called frustrating and not up to his standards, he still acknowledged his impact in the passing game.
"I was happy with how many I had, but it's something that you can't really practice. It just has to come naturally to you," he said. "Get your hands on a few balls, and if I can infuse that with a few more sacks, then I'll be very happy."
Cofield said that his coaches are very pleased with his development as a nose tackle and that other NFL coaches have told them he has the ability to become one of the top interior linemen in the league.
For now, however, Cofield is content to keep working on fundamentals and improving his results.
"It's up to me to execute it," he said. "I'm always hard on myself and I expect a lot of growth this year."