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What Jason Hatcher remembers the most were the nerves.
"It was just the nerve factor, not knowing what it was, not seeing an NFL team before," he said.
It was Aug. 12, 2006, and the Cowboys, the team that drafted Hatcher, played the Seahawks in Seattle that night. The butterflies in the pit of his stomach had escaped their cocoons.
"I didn't want to get cut," he said. "I wanted to play to the best of my ability and I went out there and had a heck of a day. I just understand how the young guys have a lot of pressure on them to make this football team. I do, too. Everybody on this field."
With a 90-man roster, and many starters taking limited snaps, Thursday night's preseason opener against Cleveland will indeed provide some pressure for many rookies, drafted and undrafted, to make some kind of splash, to catch a coach's eye, to remain strong in their fundamentals. The challenge is those butterflies, tempering the overwhelming nerves with the confidence in their football ability.
For fullback Darrel Young, an undrafted free agent who didn't have a distinct position like today, he knows the feeling all too well.
"It was fun man, I was nervous. Just had to go out there and make plays," Young said of his first game against the Ravens in 2009. "You had Ray Lewis coming out there to this "Hot In Herre" song by Nelly, fire everywhere and smoke. I was nervous but I was excited at the same time because I got an opportunity to live my dream. I had a name on my back, Redskins on across my chest, and who would want to represent their family in any different way?"
Young, then a linebacker, recorded one tackle in the game and his circuitous route to becoming one of the best fullbacks in the league began. As Quinton Dunbar knows already, position changes can happen in the NFL. Knowing the entire playbook, and knowing everybody's role, is the next step in facilitating that transition, and, very practically, in helping conquer some of those pregame jitters.
The Washington Redskins conducted their eleventh day of training camp practice Tuesday, August 11, 2015, at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va.
"Being undrafted you have to know every situation you're going to be in," Young said. "You look at 2011 and everyone got hurt, myself and Logan Paulsen left from a big-skilled position and we ran a lot of two-back systems. I played more running back in my first couple of years than I did at fullback just because we had great Mike Sellers in there and backs got hurt and stuff. I think it makes you a better football player and it makes the team better when you've got guys across the league doing stuff."
As for the Redskins' Thursday night game against the Browns, rookies, among all of the other emotions running through their head, will certainly remember it, for better or for worse.
"Going against Hall Of Famer Walter Jones, it was tough," Hatcher said, remembering his 1-on-1 matchup.
Young, meanwhile is just excited to see how the rookies take advantage of their playing time.
"I'm not going to lie, all of them," Young said of who he thinks will get good time to play. "You know DeSean [Jackson] went down and Reggie Bell stepped up. You know, guys that haven't been on the radar. [Jamison] Crowder has been doing a heck of a job. He had a little set back with injury but when he's ready to play he'll be fine. Matt Jones has been running guys over since OTAs. We didn't have any pads on, defense complained a little bit, but I'm excited to see him run. Jordan Reed, everybody. I think [Brandon] Scherff is going to be fine. He's a big boy, he can hold his own."