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For Fauria, The 'Ring Is the Thing'

It was March 13 that the Redskins made their free agent splash of the offseason, as Antwaan Randle El, Adam Archuleta and Brandon Lloyd arrived at Redskins Park for introductory press conferences.

One free agent newcomer was missing, however.

And that suited Christian Fauria just fine.

"I would have been a little fish in a big pond," he laughed.

The Redskins signed Fauria, an 11-year veteran tight end, with little fanfare. He is expected to back up Chris Cooley, serve in multiple tight end sets and play a role on special teams.

The 6-4, 250-pounder spent the past four seasons with the New England Patriots, earning two Super Bowl rings. He previously played for the Seattle Seahawks for seven years.

Despite signing with the Redskins just two days after the free agency period began this offseason, Fauria said he was deliberate in choosing his next team. He and his wife Rhonda have four children to look after, including one who is four months old.

When Washington indicated interest, Fauria did his research on the Redskins and the direction the team is headed.

"I just tried to go off of what I knew," Fauria said. "I knew it's a great coaching staff with a Hall of Fame coach in Joe Gibbs. You have a lot of veteran coaches who really know what it takes to win. From what I had heard, the locker room is a good community.

"For me, that's what is most important because that's really how you win. You can X and O a team to death, but what it comes down to is, the guys in the locker room really make a difference. That's what I came from [in New England]. I knew it would have to be the right commitment for me, to make such a commitment for me to move my family here."

Fauria has literally played football all over the country.

He grew up in Northridge, Calif., and starred at Crespi High School in Encino, Calif. He went on to play college ball at the University of Colorado. Drafted by the Seahawks in the second round (39th overall) of the 1995 NFL Draft, he played in Seattle for the first seven years of the pro career. In 2002, he signed with the Patriots and headed east.

Now at 34, an age when football careers are winding down, Fauria figures Washington could be his last NFL stop.

Fauria has been a regular participant in the Redskins' off-season workout program this spring. He has also spent time studying the playbook of Al Saunders, the Redskins' new associate head coach-offense.

"It's not a similar offense to what I've been in before," he said. "It's funny--you look at the playbook and you say to yourself, 'Gosh, we had this route [in New England]. We had this exact combination. We had some of the same runs.' But then you see that the difference is in how they call the plays."

Fauria is familiar with Saunders's play-calling, having played against Kansas City often in the AFC. Saunders was the offensive coordinator and play-caller for the Chiefs the last five seasons.

Tight ends have flourished in Saunders' offenses--Tony Gonzalez has become a Pro Bowl regular under Saunders--and that's something that Fauria took note of before signing in Washington.

That doesn't make it an easy offense to learn, though.

"Al has a lot of shifts and motions," he said. "In running it, you don't always have to have your thinking cap on, but you really have to practice it and get your repetitions in so that it becomes second nature. You don't want to go out there and think too much about what you have to do.

"In learning it, I just start from the ground up. I put the training wheels on first, figure out where I'm supposed to line up, and then once you get those building blocks set, you practice it and run it until it becomes routine."

In his career, Fauria has played in 167 games with 119 starts. He has logged 245 receptions for 2,473 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Fauria was a valued reserve and special teams played a key role in the Patriots' two Super Bowl championships in the 2003-04 seasons. He backed up starting tight end Daniel Graham and played on special teams.

Fauria has a knack for being in the right position at the right time on special teams. In January 2005, Fauria nabbed an onsides kick in the AFC Championship game, helping seal a Patriots win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Two weeks later, Fauria caught another onsides kick late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXXIX, contributing to New England's win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Asked if he sees any similarities between the New England and Washington organizations, Fauria said: "It's so hard--you really have to be careful when you start comparing teams because they're all different. They all have different components.

"But the one thing any winning organization has to have is everybody getting along in the locker room and everybody committed to the same goal.

"You don't want to be playing football just to play football, you don't want to be playing 16 games and then it's see you next year. No, you play football to win championships. That's the way I look at it. If you're getting paid and you've done everything you want done, what's the most important thing you can do to leave a mark? Winning Super Bowls.

"The ring is the thing that makes the difference."

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