If ability is nothing without opportunity, linebacker Bryan Kehl is happy to finally have both as a member of the Washington Redskins.
"My training camp experience has been great," Kehl said with a huge smile. "I love being here. I love the Redskins. I love [head] coach [Mike] Shanahan and I'm excited."
With the departure of Rocky McIntosh and Keyaron Fox in free agency this offseason, the Redskins signed Kehl and Jonathan Goff to add veteran depth to a young linebacking corps.
However, Goff tore his ACL early in training camp and was released by the team late last month. The injury left Lorenzo Alexander as the primary backup behind London Fletcher, and opened the door for Kehl to emerge as the primary backup to Perry Riley on the depth chart.
Kehl, who has played his entire professional career at outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense, signed with Washington in April and transitioned to an inside slot in the Redskins' 3-4 scheme.
As expected, the switch has been a big adjustment for him.
"Playing the 3-4 as opposed to the 4-3 is really different," Kehl said. "It's a different philosophy. I've been trained a certain way and in my mind, I think a certain way. My whole time in the NFL I've been doing it a different way, so I have to re-train some of my instincts.
"It's still a work in progress but I'm getting there. I love the defense and I think it's going to be really good for me."
Kehl, 6-2 and 243 pounds, had an impressive Redskins debut in Buffalo, leading the team with six tackles, a sack for a 12-yard loss, and one pass defensed.
"I thought I did really well," Kehl said of his performance against the Bills. "I did well statistically. I had a bunch of tackles—a couple of tackles were for loss—and a sack.
"It was really fun to get out there and run around. I'm still learning the defense but it was fun to have live bullets for once."
When not spelling Perry Riley on defense, Kehl is prepared to be an asset on special teams. Kehl believes his physicality is his biggest asset on a new team.
"I would say my athleticism would be my biggest asset, Kehl said. "I think I've always been a fast, quick-twitch reaction guy who just gets around the ball."
Kehl, BYU's defensive MVP his senior season, was a fourth-round draft pick of the Giants in 2008, and has spent the last three seasons in St. Louis.
In his four-year career, he has appeared in 59 games with five starts, recording 59 tackles, one interception, one sack, two fumbles recovered and a pass defended.
Kehl is admittedly disappointed that he didn't play a bigger role on his previous two teams, but wants to show his worth in Washington.
"Honestly, I thought I'd be a starter in the NFL by now," he said. "That was sort of my expectation coming in when I first got to New York. I was headed down the right path my rookie year. I rotated series the first six games and I started the seventh and eight games as a rookie."
Midway through his rookie season, fortunes changed for the BYU product, but he's working hard to reverse those misfortunes and earn the trust of Redskins coaches.
"Right after that, they kind of pulled the plug and I haven't really played a ton since then," Kehl explained. "I've had just kind of spot duty, but I feel I've played well whenever I've been in [games] and I still have that capability.
"So I've just been looking for a chance. My goal is to be as good as I can and make it so that the coaches have trust in me."
Kehl and his wife Jessica recently became the proud parents of their first-born child—a healthy baby girl, Jayda. Kehl admits that it's challenging being a new father and professional athlete, and credits Jessica for holding the household together.
"It's been tough but my wife is good," Kehl said. She's shouldering the load right now. She's a warrior."