Being a 3rd overall pick in the NFL Draft can put a lot of pressure on any player, especially when they don’t live up to everyone’s expectations.
From his rookie season in 2000 through 2001, Chris Samuels was arguably the best offensive tackle in the NFL. He started all 32 games in that span and made the Pro Bowl in just his second season. Chris had become a very valuable blind-side tackle and the most consistent member of the offensive line for the Redskins.
But then the Spurrier Era began and for the past two seasons, Chris has been hammered by the media and fans alike for playing at a level far under his capabilities. Battling injuries, mental mistakes, and a lack of blocking assistance, Samuels struggled to protect the quarterback on many occasions. Chris made the Pro Bowl in 2002 and was a third alternate in 2003 despite criticism that he may not have deserved those bids.
A blessing in disguise occurred in late December of 2003. The Ol’ Ball Coach left the Redskins. Just over a week later, the legendary Joe Gibbs was brought in to replace him as the team’s head coach. Who did Gibbs first call to re-join his coaching staff? None other than Boss Hog himself, Joe Bugel. “Buges” was the Redskins offensive line coach from 1981-1989 and develop arguably the best offensive line corps in NFL history.
In April, Samuels was the subject of a trade rumor that would not go away. Supposedly the Redskins were attempting to send him to the Oakland Raiders for the #2 pick in the 2004 Draft. To replace him, the team would draft Robert Gallery, who was the best offensive tackle available. Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato continually denied any interest in trading Chris and the trade between Oakland and Washington never occurred.
On July 31st, Training Camp kicked off with the intensity of an actual NFL game. Coach Gibbs and the rest of the staff are running a tight ship with the players. The level of respect that the players have for the coaching staff is enormous and is very evident in practice.
A number of the players spend extra time after each practice to work out and exhaust themselves to a level exceeding any form of sanity. One of those players is Chris Samuels, who is coming into the 2004 season with a huge chip on his shoulder. Samuels has run full-speed sprints on his own time and lost enough weight to put himself under 300 pounds for the first time in years. Quoted as saying “I’m pissed”, the Gentle Giant off the field is developing a mean streak on the field. Chris has placed all of the blame for his past struggles on himself and not Spurrier’s style of offense.
His newfound motivation can be attributed to the presence and assistance of Joe Bugel, who is known for his ability to connect with and bring out the best of his players.
It’s almost impossible to predict a player’s performance every season but one thing is for certain: the 2004 Washington Redskins will have a new Chris Samuels at left tackle.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell