In this exclusive interview with THN, Redskins safety Reed Doughty describes how he spent his offseason, his decision to return to the team, how he felt about the team’s offseason moves, and his outlook on the 2009 NFL Draft.
If anyone knows adversity, it’s Reed Doughty.
Whether it’s battling to make an NFL roster as a rookie coming out of little University of Northern Colorado in 2006, coping with his first son Micah’s kidney disease, stepping up in place of superstar safety Sean Taylor, who was slain at the age of 24, combating a hearing deficiency that affected his communication with coaches and players, or overcoming a brief illness and back injury that shortened his 2008 season to four games, Reed has overcome it.
Doughty was recently awarded for rising above such difficulties as the Redskins recipient for the 2008 Ed Block Courage Award.
The award is given to one player from each NFL team who has dealt with some type of adversity. Each winner is nominated by his teammates.
“It meant a lot to me that the team voted for me and it showed me they respected me for the way I handled my son's kidney failure, stepping in for the late Sean Taylor and for dealing with a back injury that required surgery,” said Redskins safety Reed Doughty.
How did Doughty feel when he was made aware of his nomination?
“It felt really good. I was rehabbing and I came in one day and they said I needed to fill out tuxedo information and fill any guest names. I said: ‘For what?’ They said: ‘You're the Ed Block Courage Award winner.’ I read about Ed Block and what the award meant and I was humbled,” Doughty said.
All recipients annually culminate in Baltimore for the Ed Block Courage Award Foundation dinner to raise awareness to benefit abused children throughout the country. This year, the event was held on Tuesday, March 10.
For Doughty, the event was a culmination of pain and triumph. It helped give him a fresh outlook on his career and personal life, which included a new addition to the family just prior to the ceremony.
“It's hard to describe the night because we met so many people but I'll do my best. My wife just gave birth to my second son, Caleb, before the event so I brought my dad, Marlon, with me. It felt good having my dad there because he doesn't do those type of events often and he got to meet other players and see what the event was really about. The best part of the event was playing with the kids who were at the Courage House in Baltimore. The award is designed to benefit abused and neglected children so that was the main focus for me that weekend; to talk to the kids and just have fun with them. The night of the event was really special because I got to meet other Courage Award winners like Kenechi Udeze, Keith Davis, Matt Bryant, Damon Huard, Jeff Saturday, Ryan Clark, and many others. They showed a video of each award winner and talked about why they won the Courage award for their team. Some guys had injuries, others had illnesses like cancer (Udeze) and many others had children who were inflicted with a disease or illness. It was a very well put together [event] where we got to meet other players, sign autographs for the fans and raise money for Courage Houses all over the country to benefit abused and neglected children. My hat is off to everyone involved in the Ed Block Courage Awards,” Doughty said.
One day following the event, Doughty, who became an unrestricted free agent after the Redskins failed to sign him to a tender while he was a restricted free agent prior to the start of free agency, signed a one-year contract with the team.
He waited about two weeks to make a decision so he could weigh his options to decide what’s best for him and his family. Doughty said he received offers from other teams but decided to return to Washington for several reasons.
“It definitely mattered to both my wife and I. She played a big role in deciding where we ended up. She supported me through the whole process. We looked at not just the money but what city the team is in, playing time, hospitals for Micah, not to mention friends and teammates.”
But just how close was he to leaving the Redskins?
“Close enough. It is hard thinking about leaving a team you feel you belong with but at the end of the day I was looking for the best contract and the best opportunity to play. Coming off back surgery, I knew I wasn't going to be able to sign a big deal. I looked at the different teams offering contracts and looked at how they viewed me and where I would fit in. In the end, I wanted to be in the Burgundy and Gold, and play for great coaches like [Special Teams Coach] Danny Smith, [Defensive Coordinator] Coach Blache, [Safeties] Coach Jackson and [Head] Coach Zorn. I kept in contact with my coaches throughout. Of course, I would have liked to sign a better contract but I signed a one-year deal and am excited to prove my value,” Doughty said.
His status in free agency was tainted by his lack of playing time last season due mostly to a back injury that led to season-ending surgery. The injury took a toll on Doughty throughout the summer and during the four regular season games he was able to play.
“It was frustrating. I really wasn't myself during training camp or any part of the regular season. It was disheartening to just get by instead of pushing myself to be the best player I could be. By the time the Philly game rolled around I knew it was a last ditch effort. My whole leg was numb but painful at the same time. I am happy I got surgery because I am feeling better than when I came in the league. I am working out harder and my body feels great. It took a lot of rehab but I don't think there are many guys who have back surgery and are full speed at 5 months,” Doughty said.
When he wasn’t rehabbing, Doughty put his focus on family ventures.
“My wife and I built a house in Colorado and spent the off-season, taking care of our two-year old, Micah, and welcoming our new son, Caleb, into the world. Both of our families are back there so it was nice for both sets of grandparents to see our kids a lot. I have been rehabbing and working out since November so I just wanted to come to off-season conditioning and show that I am ready to go. Otherwise we have been relaxing and furnishing our house and making it a home,” Doughty said.
Doughty’s return adds to a noteworthy offseason by the Redskins which was highlighted by the signing of defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth to the NFL’s highest guaranteed contract ever at $41 million. Haynesworth, who was arguably the top prize in this year’s NFL free agent crop, signed a 7-year $100 million deal, the largest ever for a defensive player.
Doughty feels Haynesworth’s presence in the middle will help not only the line but the rest of the defense as well.
“Haynesworth will be a force on the inside, in both the run and passing games. We have other good defensive tackles and this will just solidify us up front. This should create more one-on-one opportunities for the defensive ends and as a result create pressure, sacks and more turnover opportunities for the defensive backs,” Doughty said.
The vast majority of the Redskins’ moves involved re-signing players from the 2008 squad such as cornerback DeAngelo Hall (who signed a 6-year, $54 million deal), linebacker Alfred Fincher, kicker Shaun Suisham, defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery, and defensive end Phillip Daniels (who was cut to make salary cap room before free agency began).
The team also brought back two veterans who have been absent for the past two seasons. The Redskins quickly filled their gap at left guard by signing Derrick Dockery and added veteran leadership to the defensive line with the signing of Renaldo Wynn.
Dockery left the Redskins to sign with the Buffalo Bills via free agency in 2007 while Wynn spent 2007 with the New Orleans Saints and 2008 with the New York Giants after being cut by the Redskins two summers ago.
“Derrick and Renaldo are two guys I respected immensely when I was drafted here as a rookie. In fact, my wife and I spent our first Thanksgiving in Washington at Derrick's house. He is just that type of guy. They are also great players. For the organization to bring them back means that they still valued these guys as players and men. It seemed to be a great fit for both sides,” Doughty said.
The team also lost some big names, most of which had contributed to the Redskins playoff runs in 2005 and 2007.
The Redskins cut Marcus Washington, Shawn Springs and Jason Taylor while letting Demetric Evans sign with the San Francisco 49ers as an unrestricted free agent.
It’s a safe bet to say that with the loss of Washington, the team’s main source of entertainment, energy and enthusiasm on and off the field the past five seasons, the Redskins locker room became that much more gloomy. There are reports that the team is interested in re-signing the veteran but at a discounted price.
“It is always hard to see guys like that leave. Our lockers were real close so it was hard not to be affected by his personality. He brought a shear joy and enthusiasm to the game and the locker room. He was either telling jokes or playing a comedian routine on his iPod, or telling stories about old coaches. I would love for him to come back but I hope he ends up where he best fits and can stay healthy because he is still a good player,” Doughty said.
It didn’t take long for Springs to land on his feet as he quickly signed with the New England Patriots. His acquisition improves an already talented, veteran-laden defense. The re-signing of Hall to such a large contract was a pre-cursor to the Silver Spring native’s departure from Washington.
“He was an experienced leader and still is extremely talented. He can still take great receivers off their game. That said, we have some great cornerbackss in D-Hall, Smoot, and Carlos, plus some young guys with talent,” Doughty said.
The Redskins reacted quickly following the loss of defensive ends Alex Buzbee and Phillip Daniels on the first day of training camp last summer by trading this year’s 2nd round pick and next seasons 6th round selection to the Miami Dolphins for Jason Taylor.
Taylor was supposed to bring an explosive pass rush that has been desired by the organization for years but it never came. He only mustered three and a half sacks while struggling with injuries and a switch to the opposite end of the defensive line, a change he did not adjust well to.
There was hope that Haynesworth’s addition would help give Taylor more avenues to the quarterback, whether it be as an end or as a linebacker. He will not be given that chance since he was released on March 2nd to free up $8 million in salary cap room.
“I can't comment much on Jason Taylor because I really don't know the facts surrounding his release. We all know he is a Hall of Fame-type player and that injuries and a change of defensive philosophy really hurt his production. It is just tough to trade for a guy and lose draft picks and then still lose that player,” Doughty said.
The Redskins had the chance to add to a position of need by re-signing defensive end Demetric Evans, who had made his desire to return to the team known but once the team’s lack of interest in him was crystal clear, he decided to head to the west coast and join the 49ers.
“Demetric was a good guy. He was solid in every situation he was put in. He played the run well and could rush the passer. He gave us great versatility and depth at the end and tackle positions. With Renaldo [returning] and having Phillip back, we will still have that depth and versatility,” Doughty said.
The team reportedly attempted to trade their current 1st round selection (13th overall) in order to acquire quarterback Jay Cutler, who was sent from the Denver Broncos to the Chicago Bears last week. For now, the Redskins still hold that selection with many needs heading into the Draft.
With so many positions to address with just one selection in the first 79 spots, Doughty is torn at what need the team will attend to.
“I really don't know because I am not in the draft meetings and don't know what their vision is. From a player’s perspective, I would like to see a defensive end, outside linebacker or maybe an offensive tackle because it is a tackle-rich draft. Whoever they get I hope he has a big impact.”
While the front office continues to look for options to improve the team at all positions with the draft coming up, Doughty can only worry about himself and the upcoming season at this point. For now, all is going according to plan and then some.
“I feel phenomenal. My back is feeling better than it has since I entered the league. I am having my best off-season as a pro. I am 100% healthy and working out harder and running better than ever. I am really looking forward to proving to the fans and the rest of the NFL that I am healthy and ready for a breakout season.”
Editor's note: For more from Reed that didn't make the final article, check out Jake's blog, where all the odds and ends can be found. Oh, and of course, thanks for taking the time to connect with your fans, Reed!