Veteran special teams standout makes Pro Bowl
ASHBURN, Va. (AP)
Lorenzo Alexander arrived in Washington in October 2006 as a 300-pound undrafted, practice squad defensive lineman who had been cut by two teams during the previous month.
Six years, eight positions and plenty of ups and downs later, Alexander, now a co-captain of the resurgent Redskins, was voted to the Pro Bowl as the NFC's special teams player.
In fact, Washington's other two Pro Bowl-bound players, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and offensive tackle Trent Williams, are co-captains. Fellow co-captain London Fletcher is an alternate at inside linebacker.
''You put a lot of hard work in being a dominant player,'' said the 29-year-old Alexander, who leads the NFL with 19 special teams tackles, several of them bone-jarring. ''To be recognized by the fans, the coaches and the players is a pretty cool experience. I thought I should've went the last couple years. It didn't happen for me, but it's a testament to keep grinding, keep working hard, keep trying to improve you game and eventually things will turn out great.''
The Redskins' six-game winning streak, which has them in a season-finale showdown with the Dallas Cowboys for the NFC East title on Sunday night, helped raise awareness of Alexander's excellence. But this recognition has deep roots.
''I was just trying to scratch to make the team,'' said Alexander, who began adding to his plethora of positions as a guard during spring workouts in 2007. He first earned notoriety by making a tackle after his helmet had come off in a preseason game with Tennessee that summer. ''I always found a way to be useful and keep my spot. I've just kind of adapted and evolved over the years. It was a lot of hard work. A lot of that is great coaching and great players I've had a chance to play with. And now six years later, you find yourself in a leadership role.''
Alexander was a starting outside linebacker in 2010, but has been in a reserve role there, at defensive end, defensive tackle, inside linebacker, tight end, tackle, guard and fullback during his other five seasons on Washington's roster. The five Redskins remaining from the last playoff team in 2007 - Fletcher, tight end Chris Cooley, receiver Santana Moss, defensive end Kedric Golston and safety Reed Doughty - have all been starters for at least three seasons.
''This year he has taken his game to a different level and was very happy he was rewarded for that,'' said coach Mike Shanahan, who was also gratified by the selections of the maturing Williams and the mature-beyond-his-years Griffin.
Redskins special teams coach Danny Smith was particularly thrilled for Alexander.
''I mean, there's no guy more deserving. All people have to do is watch the film,'' Smith said.
''When you look at him, he makes plays every week. He gets double- and triple-teamed at times. He has more big, solid hits than anybody. It's something that he takes very personal, very prideful. And he plays with a passion. You root for guys like that.''
Williams was as excited as Alexander to be selected, considering that this time last year he was serving a four-game suspension after failing multiple drug tests.
''I'm definitely proud,'' said Williams, voted a captain before the season. ''Since I got drafted (fourth overall in 2010) I wanted to be in the Pro Bowl. That was one of my goals. I went through a lot of self-inflicted wounds, but I'm thrilled to show people that I have character. I did shoot myself in the foot, but I was able to bounce back and show people that I've matured. This just caps it off. And us making a playoff push, I couldn't have wrote a better script.''
Griffin was more matter of fact about his selection, even though he joined Hall of Famer Dan Marino as the only rookie quarterbacks ever chosen in the initial voting, not as an injury replacement. Griffin, the NFL's second-ranked passer, is the first Redskins quarterback so honored since Brad Johnson, who led Washington to its last NFC East title in 1999.
''I didn't have too much of a reaction,'' Griffin said. ''We're all focused on the Cowboys. You never play for awards. Everybody in this locker room has a part of (us) making it to the Pro Bowl. If everybody could go, we'd take everybody. You don't get these kind of awards unless you're winning and we've won six straight.''
Notes: Right tackle Tyler Polumbus, who missed last week's game at Philadelphia with a concussion, returned to limited practice Thursday. If Polumbus passes another concussion test before Friday's workout, he'll return to full practice and could start against Dallas.
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