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Daniels a 'Comeback Player' Too

If you plan on starting a football team tomorrow, try to have players such as Phillip Daniels on your side. In 2005, Daniels is proving that he's the type of veteran leader who can make a difference.

Take Week 8 of the current season. In the aftermath of the Redskins' 36-0 loss to the Giants at the Meadowlands, Daniels' skills in helping the Redskins to regroup cannot be underestimated.

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He basically pledged that the Redskins would return the next week, versus Philadelphia, with a strong effort. That's exactly what happened, of course, as the Redskins edged the Eagles 17-10 in a pivotal Week 9 NFC East matchup.

In that game, Daniels, the 6-5, 285-pound defensive end now in his 10th NFL season, produced six tackles and a sack to give the Washington defense a much-needed lift against Donovan McNabb and the four-time defending NFC East champs.

Daniels leaves no doubt that last season, when he missed all but five games due to wrist and groin injuries, was personally trying. He seems to be making up for it in 2005.

Head coach Joe Gibbs said a lot of players stepped up with key showings in the Nov. 6 win over Philly at FedExField. Among them was Phillip Daniels.

Added Gibbs: "It wasn't any one person who contributed, it was the whole team. One of the things I was proudest of, if you had asked me Monday, there were six of these guys I would have said wouldn't have played.

"There were players like Phillip Daniels running on the treadmill at 1:30 in the afternoon to get ready for this game. I thought we were going to miss seven or eight guys. I think it was a tribute to their character and to our team."

Much has been made of the way Mark Brunell has played this year after a sub-par 2004. Something of the same can be said for Daniels, who is to the 2005 Redskins what another veteran defensive end, Marco Coleman, was to the Washington teams of 1999 and 2000: an acknowledged no-nonsense leader.

Daniels takes pride in how he transformed himself from sidelined player to unofficial coach for the league's third-ranked defense in 2004.

As a veteran, he feels it's his duty to help younger players on the squad. Aki Jones and Nic Clemons were among the young players along the defensive line to see significant playing time versus the Eagles in that Nov. 6 NFC East showdown. Certainly they benefit from having a veteran like Phillip Daniels around.

Explains Daniels: "If you're a leader, you want to help the young guys. You're a team. The only way for us to get to the Super Bowl is for all of us to be on the same page.

"I'm a very unselfish player. If I can make the play, I'm going to make it. But if I can help my teammate make a play, I'm going to help my teammate make a play. Sometimes, you've just got to do your responsibility and help them out, little things like coaching them on techniques and stuff like that. All of that goes a long way."

Of course, Daniels still can play, too. He has the most career sacks of anyone on the current roster (46.5) and has posted two nine-sack seasons, 1999 and 2001.

Daniels has battled wrist and ankle injuries this year but Gregg Williams is adamant about the fact that when Daniels is on the field the Redskins are an improved group defensively.

How important is the play of the Redskins' defensive line to the overall defensive sheme? They were embarrassed after yielding 206 yards to Tiki Barber but rebounded to keep Philadelphia's ground game to just 23 carries for 45 yards.

Says Greg Blache, the team's defensive coordinator and a coach who was instrumental in bringing Daniels to the Redskins: "To win in this league, you have to stop the run. No one has been able to win a championship without being able to stop the run.

"The worst thing in the world is to stand on the sidelines and watch as someone stuffs the football down your throat. You can always blitz to bring pressure, but if you can't stop the run, you might as well pack your bags, take the kids and go home. It's over with."

Having accountable veterans like Phillip Daniels at the point of attack can go a long ways toward keeping the kids in their seats.

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