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Wade struggles in position switch

ASHBURN, Va. -- The tallest player on the Washington Redskins roster stood a little too tall. Pinched between two players, Todd Wade was getting his chest pounded by London Fletcher's helmet.

"We got sloppy and fell on the ground right there," Wade said. "That's just bad technique on my part."

The experiment to turn Wade from a tackle into a guard - a risky move with major implications for the offense - has not been the prettiest of sights during the first few days of training camp. Wade's own assessment has been quite candid: He said he was "terrible" during the first half of the first practice and is still working to hold his own during one-on-one drills.

"I'm not where I want to be yet," Wade said Wednesday. "There are a lot of drills I've struggled with."

Wade is playing guard because coach Joe Gibbs talked him into it. When left guard Derrick Dockery left as a free agent in the offseason, the Redskins wanted to plug the hole without overspending on the open market. Wade is a career tackle - 86 starts at the position over seven NFL seasons - and was looking for a place to start after spending part of last season as a backup with Washington.

With Dockery gone, Wade re-signed with the Redskins and started to learn the new position. Guard and tackle may look similar, but they require different styles of footwork and athleticism. At 6-foot-8, Wade is finding it a challenge to maneuver in the more confined space of the interior of the line.

"It's been a heck of an adjustment for him," assistant coach Joe Bugel said. "But he keeps getting better. He is so conscientious, it's unbelievable. You can work with guys like that. He wants to learn every nuance about playing the guard position."

From mid-June to late July, when the Redskins were on vacation, Wade practiced his footwork like a boxer, trying to retrain his muscle memory. He would assume a blocking stance, run 20 yards, come back, and repeat.

Now that he's at camp, however, he's had to stop himself from thinking too much, rather than relying on his veteran football instincts.

"You go back and say, 'What was I doing wrong?"' Wade said. "And you back out there and play a little more natural instead of being so robotic."

Matters were complicated this week when left tackle Chris Samuels injured his knee, probably sidelining him for the entire preseason. Bugel thought about moving Wade back to tackle to plug the hole, but that would be equivalent of interrupting French lessons to go back and learn Italian.

"There's no need for me to go back to tackle," Wade said. "You'd be putting me in the same situation I was in last year. I don't want to be there. I want to be out on the field."

The players lining up next to Wade have sensed his struggles over the past few days. Center Casey Rabach lightens the mood by calling his tall teammate "Lurch," after the towering butler from "The Addams Family."

"His physical stature doesn't help - put it that way," Rabach said. "At the beginning of camp, I think he was too overzealous. You've got to slow down, collect yourself and just go through your technique. He turned it around."

The Redskins offensive line was one of the few bright spots last year, anchoring a rushing attack that ranked fourth in the NFL and allowed only 19 sacks. All of this year's projected starters are in their 30s, and Wade - who is 31 - doesn't want to let the group down.

"Without a doubt. I look at things like, if I do well, Chris will go back to the Pro Bowl," Wade said. "If I go out there and play terrible, it's going to make it tough on him. I want to go out there and be special, too, just not try to come in there and fill a void. I really want to be good at what I'm doing."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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