Phillip Daniels remembers his first play as a Redskin. As has been well-documented by now, it was at the March mini-camp: Daniels kneeled down at the line, still surprised at what he heard assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams just instruct the defensive unit.
All 11 defenders blitzed on the first play and the offense, caught off guard, didn't have time to adapt.
"Gregg Williams didn't care who was open," Daniels said. "He was sending a message that there's going to be pressure all the time."
Five months later, Daniels believes the defense is slowly taking on the mentality of their coach.
"It becomes infectious," he said.
Daniels, a 6-5, 285-pound defensive lineman, was slowed with a nagging abdominal injury this preseason, but he fully expects to be ready for the season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers today at FedExField.
Daniels, now in his ninth NFL season, started practicing regularly in the days leading up to last week's preseason finale versus Atlanta. Daniels returned to practice after being sidelined most of training camp.
"The trainers had been holding me out," he said. "I did a lot of cardio and extra workouts to stay in shape. To be honest, I wanted to be out there on the field; it's kind of boring over on the sidelines watching everybody have fun."
Said Williams: "Phillip's like a war dog. He just needs to get his timing down at full speed and he'll be ready on opening day."
Daniels joined the Redskins in March after having spent four seasons with both Chicago and Seattle. It was defensive coordinator and defensive line specialist Greg Blache who recommended Daniels to the Redskins. Given his veteran experience and familiarity with Blache's schemes, Daniels figures to be an important cog on the line.
Said Daniels, who played his college ball at the University of Georgia: "The coaches are going to stay on us and make sure we get it done. And that's what you want: coaches who are going to lead and not let you quit on them. They're going to make you fight. You need coaches who are vocal."
Daniels, who had nine sacks for the Bears in 2001 and nine for the Seahawks in 1999, wants the defensive line to set an aggressive tone early in Sunday's season opener.
"We just have to go out there and let people know that this is a different defense and we're not going to let people push us around," Daniels said, matter-of-factly. "We have to set the tempo from the start."
Added Daniels: "I've been around some good defensive lines, with guys like Cortez Kennedy and Sam Adams up in Seattle, and with Ted Washington and Keith Traylor in Chicago. With the guys we have here with the Redskins, I haven't seen any difference in the work ethic. We definitely can solidify things and be a good defensive line."
It was Blache who recommended Daniels to the Redskins once Blache became the team's defensive coordinator and defensive line specialist. In Daniels, Blache said, the Redskins add a leader and a person of character.
That leadership can be seen in how Daniels views his line-mates. It is expected that several linemen will be rotating in and out of games.
"We have eight starters [among the corps of defensive linemen," Daniels said. "That's how we all have to think. We don't have any backups--all starters."