The Redskins gave many fans the reunion they wanted when they officially signed cornerback Kendall Fuller, who had spent the last two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, on March 21. They aren't getting the same player, though.
Instead, they're getting a more mature, refined version of the one they traded away two years ago.
"It's just that experience, that knowledge, and getting around a different group of players, different group of guys, coaches and certain stuff I learned from them, too," Fuller told local reporters on April 1.
Fuller was one of the trade pieces, in addition to a third-round pick, that the Redskins sent to the Chiefs in exchange for Alex Smith in 2018. Since then, Fuller helped the Chiefs win two AFC West division titles, make two trips to the AFC Championship and win Super Bowl LIV. Now, he's back with the team that drafted him, and he wants to use all he's learned in Kansas City to help bring a championship to Washington.
"I think now, just knowing my game more, knowing my strengths and my weaknesses, just building that confidence, [I] definitely have become more of a leader, more vocal and things like that."
In many ways, Fuller sees his first stint in Washington as a period of self-exploration; he was still trying to figure out what kind of player he was going to become in the NFL. While still trying to recover from a torn meniscus he suffered in the fall of 2015, he was competing for a roster spot with cornerbacks like Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland and Quinton Dunbar.
Fuller was eventually named the fifth cornerback on the roster, but he not was active until Week 4 when injuries to Norman and Breeland allowed him to make his professional debut. He ended up playing in 13 games and starting in six that year, but Fuller believes he was still trying to "find himself" during his rookie season.
It seemed Fuller had found what he was searching for the following season. He emerged from training camp as the starting nickelback, and that was where he truly excelled on the field. He finished tied for the team lead with four interceptions, tied for second with 10 pass deflections and seventh with 55 tackles (second among corners).
It looked as if Fuller had finally found his place on the Redskins defense. That's why he was so surprised when it was announced that the team had traded him to Kansas City.
"I remember at the time, all the [defensive backs] were in a chat, and I was...like, 'What if that was me that got traded?' Fuller told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael. "They responded saying, 'You just balled out. You know you ain't getting traded.' But beside that, it was just part of the business.
"We all know what we signed up for," he added. "It was nothing personal for the Redskins. It was the front office making a move they felt was going to make the team better."
The move certainly paid off for Fuller; he was a starting corner in the Chief's secondary for most of the year, getting more starts in one season with Kansas City than he did in two with Washington. Those extra reps helped Fuller, especially when it came to getting experience in the postseason.
"I think I've grown a lot, even from a standpoint [of] mentally," Fuller said. "Just getting more reps, getting more experience, being able to play in big games in the playoffs and Super Bowl and things like that."
Fuller said getting to the Super Bowl was the solitary goal while he was with the Chiefs; ending a season without advancing that far into the season simply wasn't an option. That was the mindset that drove their work ethic, starting with OTAs.
OTAs are currently postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Fuller wants to instill that same mindset once players and coaches are allowed back into the facility.
"[It's] just everybody helping each other," he said. "Everybody becoming one, everybody becoming a leader, everybody pushing everybody, everybody teaching everybody and everybody coming together as one."
Now that he's back in Washington, Fuller wants to help lift the Redskins up to being a championship-caliber team, although he doesn't know what role he is going to have in this new secondary just yet. Many view him as a nickelback, which he knows is a strength, but Fuller had one of his best seasons when he worked on the outside.
The role doesn't seem to matter to him; he just wants to show his talent. However, Fuller does admit that he loves playing cornerback.
"I always consider myself as a corner first, just a corner that's been...playing for inside. That's what I played in high school through college, but I love being able to go out there and switch to nickel."
There's no doubt Fuller loved being a part of a Super Bowl-winning team. It's a rare experience that he said is "second to none." At the same time, he's focused on the future and coming back to a place that is so familiar to him and getting back to those same heights.
"It was fun," Fuller said of winning the Super Bowl and the parade that followed. "We've got to get one to D.C."