Even though Redskins safety Duke Ihenacho has had back-to-back seasons cut early by injuries, he will continue to be an "aggressive player."
Duke Ihenacho was serious about his comeback to the sport he holds so dear to his heart, dedicating his offseason work to being an even better player in his athletic prime.
Acquired off the waiver wire in 2014, Ihenacho – who started 14 games for a Denver Broncos team that made Super Bowl XLVIII the year prior – provided the Redskins a potential instant contributor at the safety position.
The San Jose State product would appear in just three games during his inaugural campaign in Washington, though, before suffering a season-ending fractured foot.
Even with little tape on him, the Redskins elected to re-sign Ihenacho last March. After soundly beating out Jeron Johnson for one of the starting safety spots, Ihenacho was going to give the Redskins a hard-hitting safety that could come downhill and mix it up in the run game.
Just nine defensive snaps into the season opener, Ihenacho would go down yet again, this time with a wrist injury.
Instead of moving on from Ihenacho, the Redskins re-signed him once again this offseason.
"He's intrigued us, obviously that's why we signed him," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said this week. "But his ability to run, No. 1. He can rush the quarterback from the safety spot. He's a good, sound tackler and we just want to see him. He's had some unfortunate injuries that cut his season short."
Even after suffering two back-to-back injuries, the energetic Ihenacho refuses to allow a timid mindset seep into his overall focus on football.
Check out images of veteran safety Duke Ihenacho during the 2015 offseason.
"I'm not really cautious about it," Ihenacho said. "I can't play like that, that's not me. My game is my game and if I ever get to that point I should just stop playing football. I just approach it the same, I'm an aggressive player, I like to have fun, I like flying around. The thing about injuries, it's going to happen to everybody and you can't really prevent it."
While Ihenacho said he chalked up his 2015 wrist injury as a lost season, the 27-year-old never got down on himself in his path back to a healthy status.
"I wouldn't say it's easier, I'm just a positive person so after I realized, 'Damn, I am going to miss another season'…I got past that initial shock it was more like, 'Let's get ready for next season,'" Ihenacho said. "Then the year went by fast."
Ihenacho is actually the most experienced NFL safety on the Redskins' roster right now. DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon are transitioning over to the position after lengthy careers at cornerback. David Bruton Jr. – who was a teammate of Ihenacho's while both were with the Denver Broncos -- has started just eight games in his first seven seasons.
"It's crazy because I feel like I have the most experience back here," Ihenacho said. "But no, those guys get it, they're vets. So they've seen a lot of things [and] they understand concepts and they're good enough athletes to read and react. That's why they're back there, to make plays and coaches have confidence in them to handle that position pretty well, so I don't really give them too much advice because they are veterans and they've been there and done that. We are all just working together, trying to get better."