The first time Matt Sinclair stepped on the field for the Redskins, he started at the top.
It was last year, Week 13, and Sinclair was seeing his first NFL action, against Devin Hester and the Chicago Bears at FedExField.
Sinclair, a first-year linebacker out of Illinois, charged down the field as part of Danny Smith's special teams coverage units and managed to pull down Hester, the game's premier playmaker.
That happened twice, on the game's opening kickoff as well as on a Shaun Suisham kickoff just before halftime.
"I guess it doesn't get much better than that," Sinclair said during the Redskins' mini-camp earlier this month. "I came off the field giggling. I had two tackles against Devin Hester in my first game.
"Actually, it was a blessing to have been out there. The coaches gave me an opportunity. For that, I had to be really thankful."
The 6-2, 245-pound Sinclair played in four regular-games as well as the playoff game in Seattle a year ago.
His signature plays came against Hester and the Bears in a game the Redskins won 24-16 in the Thursday Night that started Washington's four-game winning streak and march into the postseason.
Sinclair says he gained a great deal of confidence over the last month of the 2007 campaign. He hopes it serves as a springboard into 2008.
At mini-camp, Redskins coaches looked at Sinclair in various packages at linebacker. He was one of 10 players in the group of linebackers, headed up by London Fletcher and Marcus Washington.
"Matt's a really competitive guy, and a hard worker," said Redskins second-year linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. "We tried him at different spots and he made some plays [during mini-camp]."
Said Sinclair: "That's the thing [coaches are trying to instill in us. The more positions you can play, the more valuable you are to the team.
"Right now, I'm just glad for the opportunity to be out here. My goal? It's pretty simple. I want to prove to the coaches that I belong on that 53-man roster for the opener."
At Illinois, Sinclair played in 45 games and was part of team that won the Big 10 championship in 2001 under Ron Turner. He played against the likes of Antwaan Randle El.
Sinclair spent two years in NFL Europe with the Frankfurt Galaxy--and in one of those years Frankfurt won the European championship, World Bowl XIV.
Following that, Sinclair, a native of St. Louis, spent time trying to catch on with Baltimore and Miami in 2005 and 2006 before earning a spot on the Redskins' practice squad early in 2007.
The young man is an inveterate reader, of anything from J.D. Salinger's classic "The Catcher in the Rye," to Geraldo Rivera's "His Panic."
What's more, when Sinclair was on the practice squad a year ago, he volunteered for any Redskins community effort that pertained to children's literacy programs.
Of course, in the NFL they don't exactly hold down roster spots based on reading skills. You have to make plays.
Toward that end, in the second of Zorn's mini-camp sessions, on Friday afternoon, Sinclair stepped in front of a receiver to intercept a Todd Collins mid-range pass.
That's the type of play Redskins coaches need to see more of from the guy who broke into the league by showing that he can bring down Devin Hester--no small feat in and of itself.