Back in 2001, the Chicago Bears rode their rugged defense to a 13-3 mark and the NFC Central title. You may remember that team as the one that knocked the Redskins out of the playoff hunt. They did it in a shocking way on Week 15 at FedExField, when Brian Urlacher hauled in a 27-yard TD toss from holder Brad Maynard on a fake field goal as Chicago won 29-15.
In any event, four years down the road the Redskins may have three of those former Chicago players as key figures in their defense in the season ahead.
Cornerback Walt Harris and defensive end Phillip Daniels were starters on that Bears club of four years ago. The third, Warrick Holdman, the 6-1, 235-pound linebacker and seven-year NFL vet, was with his new team as part of the club's off-season workout activities at Redskin Park.
Holdman is one of 14 linebackers on the Redskins' off-season roster. The dominant question is this: Who can replace Antonio Pierce, now with the New York Giants, in the middle for Gregg Williams in 2005?
"It's my first day, so I'm still trying to learn snap counts," Holdman joked with reporters at Redskin Park. "Sure, I want to make a name for myself here, and prove to people that I can still play football. But for right now, I'm just trying to learn the defense."
Of course, the mastermind of those Chicago defenses, Greg Blache, is now with the Redskins as defensive coordinator and overseer of the team's defensive line. Dale Lindsey, the linebackers coach who helped in the development of Holdman, Urlacher and Rosevelt Colvin for the Bears, is now with the Redskins.
In other words, Holdman saw plenty of familiar faces in his first workouts at the team's Ashburn, Virginia facility. It was the first of 14 OTAs, or organized team activities, which are voluntary workouts not open to the public.
The Redskins last week agreed to terms on a deal with Holdman, the free agent linebacker who played in Cleveland five years with Chicago. He started 14 of 16 games last season and logged 110 tackles (56 solo). Holdman was released by the Brown on Feb. 23.
"He gives us added flexibility at linebacker," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "The thing about Warrick is that he has played all across the board. He is a veteran guy that has started at almost all of those positions. All of the defensive coaches here know him, have worked around him and with him or coached him.
"We can move people around depending on what we want to do with Lemar (Marshall). We have Brian Allen there and Mike's (Barrow) situation. We are just trying to get all of those guys healthy and work with them and see what Dale (Lindsey) thinks is the best way to go."
Holdman has played all three linebacker positions in his career and will bring strong depth to the team's linebacker corps.
"I weigh about 240 now, but I'm not in training camp shape," he said. "That's why I wanted to get with my new team, to be able to work on my conditioning and to learn my new teammates. I'll probably play at about 235. But it's not as if you have to weight 250 or 260 to play middle linebacker in this defense. In this defense, what you have to be able to do is run."
In his career, Holdman has played in 75 games with 63 starts. He has recorded 522 tackles (342 solo), four sacks, nine forced fumbles and one interception.
His best season was 2001, with a career-high 145 tackles (101 solo) and three forced fumbles. Holdman's 45 tackles were second on the team to Pro Bowler Urlacher's 148.
At Texas A&M, Holdman, a native of Alief, Texas, started 40 games, then was a fourth-round pick (106th overall) of the Bears in 1999. He says Lindsey really helped establish him as an NFL linebacker.
Brian Allen, the fifth-year NFL player and former Carolina Panther, got the bulk of the work in the middle on Tuesday, Gibbs said.
Other candidates to replace Pierce in the middle of the Redskins' defense include Mike Barrow, who is rehabbing his knee in Arizona, and Lemar Marshall, who stepped in for LaVar Arrington a year ago and had a solid year at outside linebacker.
"What Pierce was able to accomplish in this defense last year is encouraging," said Holdman. "This is a defense that allows linebackers to make plays. Right now, I'm just trying to learn my new team. But as far as the NFL overall, you just never know. In Chicago in 2001, people picked us to finish last. We went 13-3."
Holdman likely will miss workouts the rest of this week as he attends services connected with his grandmother's death, Gibbs said.