ASHBURN, Va. -- Marcus Washington knows only one speed: full-throttle. That linebacker wearing No. 53 for the Washington Redskins for much of last year? That couldn't have been the real Marcus Washington.
"I was able to play and do some of the same things," Washington said. "But I maybe hurt a little more."
There are bigger reasons why the Redskins' defense ranked 31st last season, but often overlooked is the fact the star linebacker played most of the year with a bad hip. When he walked off the field Friday after the first day of minicamp, Washington offered some promise that he'll again be his old self in 2007.
"Playing football, you can never get to 100 percent," Washington said. "If you can stay in the 90s, you're doing pretty good. That's just my goal -- to be in the 90s. I'm trying not to rush, but I think I'm right on pace."
Washington said his hip started bothering him during the third game of last season and got worse when he "got pushed in a funny way" the following week during an overtime victory over Jacksonville. As the weeks went on, he lost much of his flexibility and, by the time the season was over, he had missed two games with a knee injury -- ending a streak of 62 consecutive starts. He needed surgery on both his hip and his left elbow.
And, by the way, the Redskins were a last-place 5-11.
"It was very frustrating," Washington said. "What I think made last year so tough was because we were kind of built up so high. And when you lose like that, you have such a long way to fall. I kind of like this year, coming in under the radar, nobody really saying too much. I like that."
Washington went to his first Pro Bowl in 2004, but was overlooked when his 7½ sacks helped lead the Redskins to the playoffs in 2005. Last year, however, his sacks and tackles were down, and his never-ending smile and enthusiasm couldn't mask the fact he was ailing -- and that changes needed to be made to the defense.
So, while Washington spent the last few months recovering from his injuries, defensive coach Gregg Williams tinkered with a scheme that forced only 12 turnovers all season. Expect Washington, playing next to free agent addition London Fletcher, to rush the passer more from his strongside position in a simplified approach that requires less thinking and more, as Washington put it, "just doing."
"I like being aggressive. I like attacking," Washington said. "With the way we're going to play it, I'm going to be allowed to be aggressive and get after some people, more of just reading the quarterback and just doing. I think it'll be good for us because it'll give the guys up front -- guys like Andre (Carter) -- a chance to hunt and go get it."
That's more Washington's style, and he can't wait to finally let loose with it. The offseason rehabilitation was tough as he had to watch from the sideline as his teammates went through spring practices.
"Marcus does everything full-go, full-bore, and he approached the offseason the same way," linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said. "He's worked his butt off to get back to where he wants to be."