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For Jansen, Long Road Back to Postseason

If you want to know what the Redskins' locker room was like late Sunday eveving, it would help if you've ever been to Times Square on New Year's Eve.

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After the Redskins outslugged Philly 31-20 to qualify for the postseason for the first time since 1999, it was a locker room packed to its gills, with Joe Gibbs seemingly congratulating everyone who's ever had anything to do with the organization, Sean Taylor screaming about going back to "The Ship" (translation: Tampa Bay's Raymond James Stadium) and Chris Samuels hollering to all the naysayers that the Redskins had just done the improbable, winning their fifth in a row.

Put it this way: Not since 1999 has the Redskins' post-season locker room been in such a stage of pandemonium.

Returning to the playoffs certainly means a great deal to every member of the Redskins' organization. Right at the top of that list has to be right tackle Jon Jansen, who has been with the team in a continuous way longer than any teammate.

"How's it feel? Pretty exciting," began Jansen, who earlier in the day had fired up his teammates with an impassioned pre-game send off. "We started off strong this year, going 3-0. You know, we had our dip there at mid-season, but we finished strong.

"It really doesn't matter when you get your wins, so long as they come, so long as you finish with 10 or 11.

Everybody's even at this point. Let's go and get after Tampa Bay."

Jansen was the rookie out of Michigan who started for the Redskins versus Detroit and the Buccaneers back in the 1999 postseason. He endured a string of non-playoff years before returning to the postseason in his seventh NFL campaign.

Also still with the organization from that last post-season appearance are Mike Sellers, James Thrash and Cory Raymer.

Sunday at Philadelphia, Jansen needed to be at the top of his game. That's where he's been for most of 2005, despite playing through a pair of painful thumb injuries and coming off a 2004 Achilles tendon injury.

Given Jansen's injuries, it's taken a superlative effort for the 6-6, 308-pounder to play at a high level all season. He broke one thumb in the preseason and another in the season-opener against the Bears, and played with soft casts on both of them through the first few games. Even with the casts off, it's taken time for his thumbs to heal.

For most of 2005, his presence has fortified the right side of an offense line, which also featured guard Randy Thomas. When Thomas went down with an ankle injury versus Dallas, veteran Ray Brown stepped in to team with Jansen.

Joe Bugel's group, which also includes Pro Bowler Chris Samuels at left tackle, Derrick Dockery at left guard and Casey Rabach at center, welcomed the opportunity for the Redskins to put it on the line Sunday. They would have it no other way and obviously prefer the smash-mouth style the Redskins employed over the last month or so of the season.

Jansen's absence last season, as conspicuous as it was for the team, also was personally trying. The player nicknamed "Rock" had started 50 straight games at right tackle for Michigan's Wolverines and all 80 games in his first five NFL seasons, before suffering the Achilles injury in the first exhibition game in 2004.

He knows it's imperative for the Redskins to take care of business on days like Sunday, when they faced a tough NFC East opponent, albeit a decimated one.

"We put a lot on Clinton's shoulders today," said Jansen. "We stuck with it, and eventually things turned out well for us. This team has a lot of character. You saw that today."

What the Redskins learned once again on Sunday is that it's imperative that their offensive line gets into a rhythm, with its punching and ultimately punishing brand of ball. They struggled early but found a way to sweep Philadelphia for the first time since 1988 in a notably hostile environment.

Now, the Redskins can start thinking about the team that edged them 36-35 on Week 10 and the team that stunned them 14-13 in their last playoff game. As Jon Jansen is well aware, on both counts, things have come full circle.

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