Although Phillip Daniels endured a frustrating, injury-plagued first season with the Redskins, he tried to make the most of his time on the sideline by becoming a student of the game.
Now, as he nears complete health with offseason workouts looming, Daniels is ready to apply what he learned and prove that he can make an impact at defensive end.
"I've played my whole career--I never had a chance to watch from the outside, how the game is taking place in front of me," Daniels said. "By watching last year, I learned a lot of little things that will help me out this year. I learned about my teammates a lot more. I know them a lot better now. I think once I get back out there, it's going to be exciting.
"I didn't know what kind of player Cornelius Griffin was before. I had never watched him play. The same goes for any of those guys on the D-line. By being out last year and getting a chance to see how they played, when I get in the game next year I'll know where to expect them to be."
Daniels, 6-5, 285 pounds, signed with the Redskins in the 2004 offseason after spending the previous four seasons with the Chicago Bears. In nine NFL seasons, he has 45.5 sacks.
Daniels was nicked somewhat in training camp and preseason last year, but he was fully healthy when the regular season got underway. In Week 2 at the Meadowlands against the New York Giants, Daniels tore his groin muscle and missed the next four games. He returned in Week 8 versus Green Bay, but re-aggravated the injury the following week at Detroit.
Daniels missed three more games before returning to the lineup for the Week 13 rematch against the Giants. During that contest, however, Daniels dislocated a bone in his wrist and was placed on injured reserve the following day. He finished the season with just eight tackles and one sack, easily the lowest totals of his career.
"I'd never been through anything like that," said Daniels, who had played in at least 13 games in each of his first eight seasons in the league. "I got frustrated because I'd never had injuries. I'd never had my groin torn away from the bone. I never had a wrist dislocated. They were freak injuries that I couldn't understand why they were happening."
The Redskins had lofty expectations for Daniels last season, partly because he came highly recommended by defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Greg Blache, who was Daniels' defensive coordinator in Chicago.
"You only get one time to make a first impression, and my first impression [in Washington] wasn't very good," he said. "But injuries prevented me from letting me show what I can do. Next season is going to be a good one. For all the people who have counted me out, I'll just prove them wrong."
Blache and the Redskins may be interested in adding more bodies to the defensive line rotation this offseason--the team had five-year veteran defensive end Courtney Brown in for a visit at Redskins Park last week--but coaches know what Daniels can do and have factored his abilities into the equation.
"You're going to hear people say that we don't have a pass rusher or defensive end," Daniels said. "They've got every right to say that until I get out there and show them and prove to them that we don't need anybody else."
Added assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams: "I'm real anxious to see what kind of impact Phillip can have on this defense. I'll tell you this: We're a better defense when he's out there. He can be a solid defensive end in this league."
Daniels has spent the offseason rehabilitating his two injuries. He wore a cast for eight weeks after his wrist injury, and it was removed on Feb. 10. The following Monday, he was back at Redskins Park working on strengthening his wrist and regaining his range of motion.
Asked to update his injuries, Daniels said: "I'm ahead of schedule with [the wrist injury]. I saw the doctor, and he told me, 'It's really moving now.' When I first got the cast off, I could not even budge it. Now I can move it everywhere. So I'm just going to take it day by day and see how it goes."
As for his groin, Daniels has been attending special classes to help increase his overall strength and flexibility. He has progressed enough to be able to participate in the team's strength and condistioning program starting today.
"I should be in the workouts strong," he said. "I might not be able to do everything. It's going to take some time, but sometimes you have to go through pain to become a better player and a lot better person."