ASHBURN, Va. —Let’s get the friendly trash-talk out of the way first. Washington Redskins defensive tackle Barry Cofield, after playing five years with the New York Giants, is telling tales on his pals as he prepares to face his old team on Sunday.
Cofield, with a smile: “Every weakness I think they’ve got, is going to be shared with my new teammates.”
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck: “If he thinks we’re dumb enough to not change them, he’s crazy.”
Then there’s that “Taser dance” that Cofield does when he makes a sack, a shimmy that looks as if it belongs in an old Michael Jackson video. Cofield’s not planning a more hyped-up version if he gets to Eli Manning.
Cofield: “It’s already a hyped-up dance, I’m just hoping I’m able to bring it out.”
Tuck: “I’m just going to try to make sure that I do his sack dance before he does.”
Cofield took fond memories and friendships with him when he left the Giants for a big free agent payday, signing a 6-year, $36 million deal with $12.5 million guaranteed to come to Washington at the end of the NFL lockout. He stays in touch with his old teammates and can’t wait to see them.
“After the game, I’ll hug everybody,” Cofield said. “Everybody on the roster gets a hug.”
Cofield has already proven himself worthy of hugs many times over during his first month or so with the Redskins, if nothing else for simply being the anti-Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth sulked over the idea of trying to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defense; Cofield has embraced it. Haynesworth became a pariah; Cofield is a natural leader.
“We needed a player like that, a player that’s selfless,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said, “that’s going to come out there, use his big body to fill up those gaps for us and put pressure on the quarterback, push the pocket, everything that a good nose tackle in a 3-4 would do.”
“You see it in Casey Hampton, you see it in all those other guys around the league. That’s what they do, and Barry’s doing that for us,” Orakpo said.
Cofield is also doing a good job of debunking the notion that NFL players need all of those offseason minicamps and other workouts to learn a scheme and mesh with a new team. Teammates say he fit in seamlessly and picked up the new defense flawlessly in just a few weeks — even in the compressed timetable caused by the lockout.
That’s because he’s a top-notch student. Remember those awkward days at the start of training camp when the new free agents could attend practice but not take part because of the funky post-lockout rules? While the other non-participants stood and watched, Cofield pulled out a pen and was taking notes on his play sheet. During the long days of camp, Cofield said he put in an extra hour of study every night — examining film or the play book — so he could get up to scratch in a hurry.
“It’s something I knew I had to have coming to a new defense, and being on such a truncated schedule, not having a whole offseason,” Cofield said. “I knew it was something that I was going to have to focus on, learning the nuances of playing nose tackle, studying some Casey Hampton tape, guys like that who have been doing it. I feel like I’m ahead of schedule.”
As of last week, Cofield said his comfort level was at 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. He’s also had success lobbying defensive coordinator Jim Haslet to get some playing time on third down as part of the nickel package.
“I’m just another piece to the puzzle,” Cofield said. “I know I can add that dimension. I’m not your prototypical nose tackle who’s 340 pounds and just plays in a phone booth. I play sideline-to-sideline.”
Cofield is listed at 306 pounds, small for his position. But he says that was his weight from the NFL Combine five years ago and it’s never been updated.
“I’m a little bigger than a lot of people think I am,” he said. “A gentlemen never reveals his weight.”
Cofield realizes he’ll be scrutinized to see if he’s worth his contract. He gets to start from a low bar — the Redskins had the second worst defense in the league last year. Right now, though, it’s time to figure out a way to best channel the adrenaline when he sees Tuck and friends on Sunday.
“It’s a dream scenario,” Cofield said. “So to go out there and play well on that stage, my first game as a Redskin, against my old team and all the significance, it’ll be a great feeling.”
Notes: TE Chris Cooley was limited in practice again Thursday with the ailing left knee that sidelined him throughout preseason. “He’s making some strides,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “Hopefully, he keeps on going and there’s no setback.” ... S LaRon Landry (hamstring) did not practice again Thursday. Landry has already said he doesn’t expect to play Sunday, and Shanahan called him a “long shot.”