Duckett settles in on first day with Redskins
ASHBURN, Va. -- The new running back wore No. 36. The running backs coach wore a straw hat. In the hot sunshine away from the other players, Ernest Byner used a football and three upside-down plastic trash cans to give T.J Duckett some remedial lessons on the Washington Redskins' play book.
"Get those shoulders square," Byner said as Duckett took the ball and ran between two cans, meant to simulate defensive linemen. "Push it, T.J."
Duckett was trying to fit in Thursday during his first practice since the three-team trade that sent him from Atlanta to Washington. The deal puzzled the Redskins' existing running backs, who felt they were already a strong group, but for Duckett it was a relief after weeks of uncertainty in the Falcons camp.
"I've been hearing different rumors here and there," Duckett said. "I'm just glad it's finally settled. One week, my name's all in the trade talks. The next week, trade talks are off. It's up and down like a yo-yo. I'm just glad it's over."
Duckett had a reputation in Atlanta as a big short-yardage back whose technique wasn't always the best. After struggling for a few games last season, he needed a review in fundamentals and decision-making from Falcons coach Jim Mora. When the team drafted Jerious Norwood in April, Duckett became expendable.
In Washington, Duckett could be an ideal complement to Clinton Portis, who has been sidelined for the rest of preseason with a shoulder injury. At 254 pounds, Duckett could be used to pick up a tough yard or two during the regular season, saving Portis' shoulder from an extra hit in the trenches.
"We have two different styles," Duckett said. "I am more of a downhill runner and a bruising back. He is quick, fast, shifty, makes people miss and makes plays. Me? I am just going to beat them up and bruise them."
That was a role fullback Mike Sellers was expecting to fulfill. Sellers and tailbacks Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright were among those who initially expressed surprise over the trade and concern over how it will affect their roles on the team.
"You can understand how the guys feel," Byner said. "We had somewhat of a flow going. If they were not shocked, then we have the wrong type of people. The reality is that these guys will take T.J. in."
That appeared to be happening Thursday. Cartwright apologized for calling the trade "a slap in the face," and Sellers offered a moment of levity by yelling "Fresh meat!" as he walked past Duckett after practice.
"Four-five -- I like that number," replied Duckett, referring to Sellers' jersey No. 45, which Duckett wore in Atlanta.
It was left to tackle Jon Jansen to offer a tongue-in-cheek criticism of Duckett -- and that's only because Jansen went to Michigan and Duckett went to Michigan State.
"I still hold a grudge," Jansen said. "I remember sitting in my basement as Michigan State cheated with an extra play at the end of the game, and he happened to be the guy who caught the pass in the end zone. That's something that we'll talk about and we'll have to get over, but I'm waiting for the right time."
Gibbs said Duckett will play Saturday against the New England Patriots.
"They're throwing a lot at me," Duckett said. "It's hard, but I ain't got no choice. I'm going to make some mistakes, but I'm out here working to get better."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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