Hulk alert: Redskins' S Atogwe loves his comics
ASHBURN, Va. (AP)
Along with the dozen or so green Hulk figurines that take up much of the shelf space in Atogwe's locker, there's also a drawing made by Atogwe's wife, Jill. It depicts the veteran safety as the notorious comic book and movie character fending off symbols of all three of the Redskins' NFC East rivals - pushing over a cowboy dressed in blue, stomping on a giant with ''NY'' dog tags and clutching an eagle in his left hand.
There's also an unusual red version of the Hulk sitting in the next locker over, the one that belongs to fellow safety LaRon Landry.
''That's him,'' said Atogwe, nodding toward Landry. ''The Red Hulk's craaazy. Craaaaaaaaazy.''
Atogwe and Landry are the backside of the Redskins secondary, the ying-and-yang duo meant to improve a defense that ranked 31st last year. The pairing got off to a slow start because of injuries to both during training camp, and Sunday's game at St. Louis - when Atogwe returns to the city where he played for six seasons - will mark just their second game together.
''They're two different-type guys,'' defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. ''One's kind of high-strung. One's level-headed, relaxed. But they work together well. They talk. They sit together in meetings, They talk through plays. I think it's a good mixture.''
In case there's any doubt, Atogwe is the level-headed half, acquired as a free agent in a five-year, $26 million deal signed just before the NFL lockout began in March. Sitting at his locker, he's as calm as the mild-mannered Dr. David Banner, the scientist who transforms into the Hulk.
''I guess that's why I was attracted to it,'' Atogwe said. ''There's two sides to the Hulk. Every football player has two sides to him - the way you are on the field, the way you are off the field. You ain't the same guy.''
Landry, of course, being the exception.
''This guy,'' said Atogwe, again looking at Landry, ''is crazy all the time.''
Atogwe became a fan of the Hulk as a youngster, and his comic books collection runs into the thousands. He'll happily give you a quick review of the recent Hulk movies, but he dropped a 1980s TV reference by saying: ''When you think of the Hulk, you think of Lou Ferrigno.''
For most of his time in St. Louis, Atogwe was a bright spot on a bad team. He was the Rams' MVP in 2009 and considered a solid locker-room leader. Before he left, he gave out parting gifts derived from comic books - cornerback Justin King got the Nightcrawler, cornerback Bradley Fletcher received the Juggernaut.
''O.J. put everything into comic books,'' said King, using the nickname Atogwe prefers to be used only by his friends. ''He was fun that way.''
Atogwe said he's looking forward to Sunday's game, but that there's no bad blood with his old team. It wouldn't be his style to say so anyway.
''He's very smart,'' coach Mike Shanahan said. ''He likes to play and he's very accountable. He's a team leader both on and off the football field. You like people that prepare themselves every week and he's one of those guys.''
Notes: Three players were limited in practice Thursday, and each has a hamstring injury: WR Anthony Armstrong, S DeJon Gomes and FB Darrel Young. ... Rookie LB Ryan Kerrigan was selected as the NFL defensive rookie of the month for September. The first-round pick's highlight was the interception he returned for the go-ahead touchdown in Week 1 against the New York Giants.
AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom in St. Louis contributed to this report.
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP