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Todd Wade (right) has been absorbing all the advice Chris Samuels and other Redskins linemen have offered him.
New Redskins guard Todd Wade (left) will have to learn his position without help of now-injured Chris Samuels (right).
BY ADAM HIMMELSBACH
ASHBURN--Veteran offensive tackle Todd Wade has switched to left guard for the Redskins this season.
There's been some hullabaloo about the adjustment, and rightfully so, as the 6-foot-8 Wade has never played guard in the NFL.
But switching on the fly is nothing new for the Jackson, Miss., native.
When Wade was a child, he dominated at running back in backyard pickup games.
"We usually tried to bring him down by dragging his leg," Wade's younger brother, Justin, said from Dallas this week.
Then Wade became a standout two-way player at Jackson Prep, and he was recruited to the University of Mississippi to play defensive end.
"That's usually what they tell you during recruiting," Wade said yesterday. "But back then I was pretty fast for my size. And as my old high school coach said, a lot of defensive ends run out of speed, but tackles don't."
He decided to follow opportunity. He became a tackle.
Last January, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs called Wade, a backup tackle who was set to become a free agent, and asked him if he would consider switching to guard.
At first, Wade was hesitant.
But he had played in just three games that season, and he was unsure what his value would be on the open market.
Then Redskins left guard Derrick Dockery signed with the Buffalo Bills.
There was a new opportunity to follow.
"That changed up a lot of things," Wade said.
Wade re-signed with the Redskins in March, and the adjustment did not come easily.
A career right tackle, Wade said his right arm, which he used to hold off charging defensive linemen, had become stronger than his left.
This offseason, Wade looked to bridge the difference by doing extensive dumbbell workouts as well as shoulder-strengthening exercises.
"And that bag over there," Wade said, pointing to a tackling dummy on the practice field, "we hit that up pretty big with each hand."
Wade said he feels comfortable with his run-blocking; the biggest change is he is learning to set up the tackle.
Pass-blocking, however, has been more of a challenge.
"You have rules with every protection," Wade said. "It's almost treating it in reverse. It's just the steps and the technique and everything."
Wade said that when he played for the Miami Dolphins, he did yoga a few times a week to increase his flexibility.
Now, he says, flexibility is even more important, so he plans to restart those sessions.
Early in camp, Wade said it was helpful having Pro Bowl tackle Chris Samuels to his left.
But on Monday, Samuels sprained his medial collateral ligament. He is expected to miss about four weeks.
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs decided to keep Wade at guard rather than shift him to left tackle.
But now Wade looks to his left and sees Stephon Heyer, an undrafted free agent from Maryland.
Still, the other linemen are confident Wade can continue to progress.
"He's doing a great job," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "He put the time in this offseason knowing he was going to have to switch positions, and he's done what he needed to do."
Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442
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