Redskins' Alexander shrinks to play linebacker
ASHBURN, Va. (AP)
Lorenzo Alexander has quite a collection of white bottles, labeled with words straight from a biochemistry class. Beta Alanine Supreme. Carnitine Synergy. Uber C. Some 19 containers, big and small, in his Washington Redskins locker.
''I have a lot of supplements,'' he said.
The consummate self-made NFL player, Alexander has always been conscious about his diet. Like many players, he also gets advice on the right mix of tablets to maximize his endurance and energy output. Or, as he puts it, ''to help balance your body out.''
This year, it's been more of a challenge to find that balance. Alexander, who once was a 300-pound lineman, arrived at training camp weighing 245, having dropped some 30 pounds from this time last season so that he can hold his own in his new role as the team's primary backup at inside linebacker.
''Being 265,'' he said, ''is not ideal for covering tight ends and fast wide receivers down the middle of the field.''
No one would expect anything different from the player who arrived as a practice squad nobody in 2006 and soon became an indispensable utility man, working his way up to his current role as a team captain who now gets annual support from his teammates as an ought-to-be Pro Bowl player.
''I'd say he's one of, if not the biggest influence I've had since I've been here,'' said linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, a first-round draft pick last year. ''He seems to me what really embodies a professional. Not just a professional athlete, but a professional human being. He shows you what hard work can do.''
Alexander was a novelty his rookie season, a three-way player who saw game action on the offensive line, defensive line and special teams. He made his name with hard work, smarts and big special teams hits.
In 2010, the Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32) moved him to outside linebacker. Last year, he started learning the inside linebacker position. This year, it's his main focus on the only experienced alternative to starters London Fletcher and Perry Riley in the 3-4 scheme.
Alexander's weight loss has been noticeable during training camp. He broke up a pass over the middle to Santana Moss during Wednesday's practice, the type of play he couldn't have made when he was a lot heavier.
But he also admits there's a bit of a trade-off. Those big hits on special teams - the ones that had him mentioned as a Pro Bowl contender last year - won't be as bone-jarring as they used to be.
''The object is to get the guy on the ground,'' Alexander said. ''Obviously I'm not going to be able to do some of the same things I did when I was 30 pounds heavier, but I can still get down there and make some tackles. And that's all that matters, right?''
Special teams coach Danny Smith said Alexander's weight isn't an issue - it's figuring out how to spring him free. Alexander had 21 special teams tackles last season, eight more than anyone else on the roster. When a local radio station asked Alexander to state his name and position for a promotional announcement this week, he responded: ''Lorenzo Alexander, special teams demon.''
''He's always the pinpoint of every team that we play,'' Smith said. ''He's the guy getting doubled. He's the guy getting trapped. He's the guy getting wedged on. He gets everything, so he and I meet a lot on those things, and it's my job to keep moving him, keep helping him.
''You know, we can't just line him up in a position and let him go and they know exactly where he's at every down. Those kind of things you'll see, him moving all over the place, and it's not having nothing to do with his weight gain, loss, anything like that.''
Meanwhile, Alexander remains an active mentor to younger players. He invited fellow linebackers Riley, Rob Jackson and Markus White to join his workouts for several weeks during the offseason to help them understand the type of commitment that's needed to achieve their goals.
Redskins fans have come to know Alexander well because of his extensive charity work and his media-friendly nature. He was voted the winner of the team's Good Guy Award last season by local reporters.
Now it's just a matter of finally making that first Pro Bowl as a special teams specialist. Even then, he realizes casual fans of the game won't know who he is.
''It's like the step-sister of the offense and defense, but it's fine,'' Alexander said. ''I don't think it gets as much publicity as being a nice wide receiver or quarterback, and it never will, and I understand that. But I think fans around the league realize what I do for the team on special teams, as well as coaches and players.''
Notes: LT Trent Williams (foot) and RG Chris Chester (ankle) participated in most of practice, but coach Mike Shanahan said it's too early to tell if they will play Saturday at Chicago. ... LB White needed attention from the trainers after taking a shot to the ribs during practice. Shanahan said he thinks White will be OK.
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