Chris Samuels stepped to the podium at Redskins Park on March 2 and, standing behind three shining Lombardi Trophies, declared himself "a Redskin for life."
Samuels signed a new seven-year contract prior to the start of the free agency period, ensuring his role as one of the team's cornerstones for the foreseeable future.
"The whole time I knew that things were going to work out," Samuels said. "It's just where I wanted to be, in my heart. It's just a great place. I'm looking forward to being here for a long-term career, and I won't let these guys down."
Head coach Joe Gibbs said that extending Samuels' tenure in Washington was important for many reasons. Most notably, Samuels was a team leader throughout hard times last season.
"We were in that locker room sometimes, with some of the hardest, toughest losses that any team has been a part of," Gibbs said, "but Chris lined up every game last year and he was a big part of us fighting our way through that. As we went through that year, I appreciated Chris's leadership and the fact that he was always there. We could count on him."
Samuels, one of the longest-tenured Redskins, is entering his sixth season with the team. He understands the leadership responsibilities that accompany his status and he has embraced his role as a leader.
"I've been here for awhile and I've seen a whole lot," Samuels said. "I've been through some ups and downs. It's time for me to shine as a leader, not from a selfish standpoint but because my teammates need me. We've got a lot of young guys who need some guidance, and I'm here to do that."
Samuels' durability makes him a valuable Redskin. He started all 16 games last season and has only missed four in his career.
The 6-5, 300-pound left tackle made the Pro Bowl in 2001 and 2002 and was named an alternate in 2003. Although he did not earn a nomination last season, Samuels believed his performance improved from 2003. He attributed his progress to offensive line coach Joe Bugel.
"When 'Buges' came in here, I had some bad habits I developed in 2003, and Buges broke them right away in the mini-camps," Samuels said. "I've got to give him credit for a lot of that. He helped me just restore my game basically. When 'Buges' got here, he just worked with me. He stayed patient with me and believed in me, and I believed in myself, and things came back."
The University of Alabama product joined the Redskins in 2000 when Washington drafted him third overall, one pick after linebacker LaVar Arrington.
After his final season with the Crimson Tide, Samuels won the Outland Trophy, the award given to the nation's best collegiate lineman. He quickly developed a reputation as one of the NFL's best tackles, as evidenced by his Pro Bowl nominations.
"Wherever Patrick [Ramsey], Mark [Brunell] and Tim [Hasselbeck] are, I'm sure they're giving a big 'thumbs up' today because they know they're protected over there on the left side," Gibbs said.
Samuels' contract extension brings continuity to the Redskins' offense as it enters its second season under Gibbs. Samuels said he spoke to Gibbs about that issue, and he realized that his return would help the offense.
"I talked to him in his office one-on-one and asked him how long he was going to be here," Samuels said. "He told me he's going to be here for awhile, so I wanted to be here with him. I think things are truly going to pick up."
Looking ahead to next season, Samuels sees many positives. Having a year of experience in Gibbs' offense certainly doesn't hurt. Also, the team demonstrated a fighting attitude last season despite some difficult losses.
"We've just got to cut out the silly mistakes," Samuels said. "One thing that encouraged me last season is that we didn't quit. Late in the year, we kept fighting. A lot of people looked down on us and thought we were going to give into the pressure and look forward to next season, but we didn't do that."
With mini camps on the horizon and his future with the team ensured, Samuels is ready to help the Redskins' ascend to contender status.
"We're looking forward to a brand new season," he said. "I think we're going to have an outstanding season as an offensive line and a team."