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Rabach Adds Versatility to O-Line

As soon as the Redskins' offensive coaching staff put in game tape of free agent offensive lineman Casey Rabach from last season, they loved what they saw.

Joe Bugel, assistant head coach-offense, saw a 6-1, 305-pound lineman with the versatility to play either guard or center. But what really stood out to Bugel was Rabach's ability to pull on run plays and screen passes.

"This kid can play," Bugel said. "We took out film to watch him last year at guard because he is as good a guard as we have seen in free agency. That really lit up right there because right now the centers have to be pullers in this league. That's how much the league has changed right now."

The Redskins' personnel officials were sold so quickly on Rabach that they brought him to Redskins Park on the first day of free agency and officially signed him on Thursday morning.

It was an easy decision for Rabach, too.

"When you know it feels right and it is the right fit for you, why wait around?" Rabach said during his introductory press conference on Thursday. "Just playing for Coach Bugel and [head coach] Joe Gibbs is just a real good fit. I think the Redskins are real close to breaking through to be a playoff team and go on to the Super Bowl, and that was a big part of it."

Rabach, 27, also knew several of the players on the Redskins' roster, including Joe Salave'a, Cornelius Griffin and Cory Raymer, making the transition easier.

Of course, Rabach will only have to relocate about 50 miles in making the move to Washington. He played the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Baltimore Ravens, serving mostly as a backup guard and center.

Last season, Rabach started 15 games at center and one at left guard for the Ravens. The 6-1, 305-pounder paved the way for Jamal Lewis's third consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season and helped the Ravens' offense compile more than 2,000 rushing yards on the season.

The Ravens are believed to be committed to Mike Flynn as their center of the future, though.

"I knew the day was coming when I would leave," Rabach said. "[The Ravens] had their starting center up there and they made that clear when they signed Mike back. There are no ill feelings toward them. Coach [Brian] Billick and the whole staff--it's a great organization. It was just time to move on.

"What a great feeling it was to come down here. Everything kind of fell into place."

In Washington, Rabach will play center and could be penciled in as the starter.

"I think center is more my natural position, just from the time I spent playing center, but I feel confident and comfortable no matter where I play on the line in the interior three positions," Rabach said. "That's one thing that Coach Gibbs said earlier that carried a lot of weight in their decision to pick me up: the versatility that I can play in either one of those positions."

Added Gibbs: "What I think we will have here in Casey is somebody who could start at center for us and also give us great flexibility inside being able to play guard. I think he fits perfectly for us."

In 2003, Rabach played 14 games with two starts and also saw action in the postseason. He saw his first NFL action in 2002, when he played in 12 games with five starts, four at left guard and one at center.

Rabach was a third-round pick (92nd overall) by the Ravens in the 2001 NFL Draft.

An All-American lineman at Wisconsin, Rabach started 48 games for the Badgers and was one of 11 first-team All-Big 10 Conference offensive linemen. The Badgers averaged 218 rushing yards per game during his career.

Gibbs made a point to tell reporters that Rabach holds the rare distinction of garnering All-Big 10 Conference first-team honors at two different positions: center in 1999 and guard in 2000.

Gibbs also said that the Redskins acquired a player with a love for the game.

As the newest "Dirtbag" on Bugel's offensive line, Rabach is eager to show what "kind of player I am and what I bring to the table."

"I just love the game," Rabach said. "That's something that every NFL player who wants to succeed really needs--just to have a love for the game. I am glad the business side is over now because now I can get back to working out and concentrating on playing football again."

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