Phillip Daniels leaves no doubt that last season, when he missed all but five games due to wrist and groin injuries, was personally trying.
At the same time, the Redskins' defensive end, now entering his 10th season, takes pride in how he transformed himself from sidelined player to unofficial coach for the league's third-ranked defense. As a veteran, he felt it his duty to help the younger players on the squad.
"Guys would come to me and ask what they were doing wrong or what they can do to better themselves," he said. "I'd tell them, and it improved their game a lot. You're a leader, and 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."
The Redskins also need Daniels' wisdom and experience on the field, where the 6-5, 290-pounder can be a disruptive force. He has the most career sacks of anyone on the current roster (45.5) and has posted two nine-sack seasons, 1999 and 2001.
His sack goal this year is "anything in double digits," but he admits possibly sacrificing his sack total to help his teammates make plays.
"I'm real anxious to see what kind of impact Phillip can have on this defense," assistant head coach-defense Gregg Williams has said on several occasions. "I'll tell you this: We're a better defense when he's out there. He is a solid defensive end in this league."
Adds Redskins defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin: "It's great having Phil back out there. The defense played great last year, but it's different having Phil back on the field."
This preseason, Daniels said he felt good to be back in the mix, albeit noting that his wrist is still a little sore. His first real test should come on Sept. 11 in the season-opener against the Bears at FedEx Field, a game that will carry special meaning for the defensive end.
He played four seasons in Chicago (2000-03), before the Redskins signed the unrestricted free agent in March 2004.
Daniels missed the Redskins' 13-10 win over the Bears in week six of last season.
When asked if he'll feel an added rush of adrenaline while lining up against his former team in the season-opener, he said although Chicago released him he doesn't want to be consumed by revenge.
"I'm just going to go out and play my game, and we're going to try to win the game," he said. "I'm not going to get caught up in the 'trying to get back at you stuff.' "
However, "No player in the NFL will say there's no extra incentive when they play their old team."
Daniels will get a chance to play another former team, Seattle, at FedEx on Oct. 2. He played for the Seahawks for four seasons (1996-99) after they selected him in the fourth round out of Georgia in the '96 draft.
Last season, Daniels was an effective pass rusher in his limited minutes on the field, collecting eight tackles and a sack. He also recovered a fumble. He said he looks forward to playing a full season under Gregg Williams, calling him a "great defensive coordinator."
"He's going to call the calls that work, and he's going to put us in the right position to make plays," Daniels said of Williams. "We've just got to go out there as a team and do it. We just want everybody to come out and do their jobs, and we can make this year special."
What about the departure of middle linebacker Antonio Pierce and cornerback Fred Smoot from the defense? Will it have an impact?
"We'll be just fine," Daniels said. "We've got guys who will step up there and play. I don't think we'll miss a beat."