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McIntosh Isn't Looking Back

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Go to bed one way and wake up another. That's how Rocky McIntosh's life went.

He entered the 2009 season as a starting linebacker in a 4-3 defense with a team that had been 8-8. He could look forward to free agency as he completed his fourth season. Success would mean more opportunities.

Good night. Good morning. Whole different day, whole different life.

The NFL opted out of its labor agreement with the players, turning 2010 into an uncapped year in which players needed six years of service to become unrestricted free agents. The Redskins crumbled and stumbled to a 4-12 finish.

Despite finishing second on the team in tackles and tying his career high with two interceptions, McIntosh was unable to attract suitors as a restricted free agent and ultimately signed his one-year offer with the Redskins.

In addition, the change in coaching staff led to a shift to a 3-4 defense that put McIntosh as the right inside linebacker.

Now he doesn't want to look back too much. Perhaps the best is yet to be.

"All that stuff is the offseason and such. I always stayed in tune with what we were doing. It's time to go out and perform," he says.

A second-round pick in 2006, he has overcome a knee injury that cost him the final two games of 2007 to make 15 starts each of the last two seasons. He was also second on the team in tackles in 2008, trailing only his running mate at inside linebacker, Pro Bowler London Fletcher, the perpetual tackling machine.

McIntosh's unhappiness over his contract situation didn't keep him from getting in shape, staying that way and learning his assignments.

"You have to be a professional, whether you're out on the street waiting for a call or you're on a team, or you're on the second team waiting to step in," he says. "So my head has always been in the game and I've been on top of it."

The outside linebacker on the right side is Brian Orakpo, who split time as a rookie between right defensive end and left linebacker. So many players changed positions with the alteration of the scheme – Fletcher, McIntosh and Orakpo only a few of them – and they simply go about their business in a new way.

"Everybody is buying in and putting their egos aside and just playing as one. That's the most important thing," Orakpo says. "We didn't do that last year, to be honest with you. Everybody was doing their own thing. But everybody is buying in."

He likes playing to the outside of McIntosh.

"It's good. He's a great athlete and he's all over the field. We have a bunch of different blitzes where me and him are used as a package," Orakpo says.

That's the story at so many positions in this camp. Line up in an unaccustomed spot, learn the nuances and go.

"Rocky is making the transition smoothly. He's doing all the detail work to become a good inside 'backer. Very coachable. Takes pride in what he does and he only knows one way – 110 percent," linebackers coach Lou Spanos says.

For McIntosh, the scheme seems to work.

"London and me, we can just go downhill and make tackles," McIntosh says. "That's definitely a plus. I like it. You go downhill and you hit people. In coverage, there's a little bit more zone than man coverage and that makes it easier to make plays because you can see the ball. That's a plus."

In doing the math, McIntosh keeps coming up on the plus side.


Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for Redskins.com and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at Redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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