Swing man

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The Texans made sure to retain the Washington's aid by re-signing him to a three-year contract in March.
It was just another day at the office for Todd Washington.

Uprooting from the center to right guard position in the midst of training camp repetitions could possibly send any player into a tizzy. But Washington didn't even flinch.

Heading into his seventh NFL season, Washington has been down this road before. The keen offensive lineman has been asked to move positions during mid-season, sometimes even mid-game.

Washington joined the Texans last season and proved to be quite a valuable asset, relieving an injured Milford Brown at left guard during the second game of the 2003 season against New Orleans. He remained at the starting post for the remaining 14 games, helping rookie running back Domanick Davis bulldoze for 1,031 yards while fortifying quarterback David Carr's protective space by cutting the sack total by more than half from the inaugural campaign.

He's been playing musical chairs between center, left and right guard since his playing days in Tampa Bay (1998-2002). Why stop the rotation now? Washington was again asked to step in to make a seamless transition this past off-season, as he lined up behind Steve McKinney, anchoring the line in the center post.

"I've been a swing man for seven years," Washington said. "I was drafted into the league as a center but I've played a lot more guard in my career than center. If you learn one, you have to learn them all. The inside three (positions), I'm pretty comfortable with."

Over this past week's training camp, as McKinney sat out resting a hamstring injury, Washington took the bulk of snapping duties. But when right guard Zach Wiegert also became a practice absentee after developing fluid in his elbow, Washington's double-duties at both center and guard were put to the test.

It wasn't the first time in his career that he passed with flying colors.

"Every time we give him an opportunity, he steps in and takes advantage of that opportunity," head coach Dom Capers said. "He's a tough guy. He's all business and he likes to play the game. I think he has a lot of qualities that you look for in an offensive lineman."

After impressively stepping in at right guard on a dime, the Texans were re-assured that re-signing the sharp, versatile player for three more years last March was a valuable move. Especially since Wiegert's probability of playing against Dallas on Saturday night is looking dim.

"Probably and realistically, Zach (Wiegert) will be back Monday working," Capers said after Tuesday's practice. "He still has the IV in his arm so I think he'll finish his last IV sometime this weekend so he's limited until then. He will not play this weekend and will be ready on Monday."

Washington's no slouch. He's one of the hardest-working players on the squad. Competition, challenges and intimidation have never been obstacles. While Washington has played both the starting and reserve role, lining up for the team's opening snap has always been his top priority.

His relentless effort and intelligent play keep everyone on their toes, from coaches to starters, and down the depth chart.

"My job is to put pressure on coaches and make decisions for them a little tougher," he affirmed. "I'm not taking anything away from (Steve) McKinney or any of the guards that we have now.

"I'm a competitor and I like to work hard and you always get rewarded for hard work. So wherever I wind up, whether it's center, left guard, right guard, I'm all for it."

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Washington takes all accountability for his actions and blames no one else, coaches and players alike, for his possible shortcomings. That alone is the first step in becoming a long-standing, superior ball player.

"If I deserve to start, I will. If I don't start, it's because there's something I'm not doing right and I need to work on it."

He's been working for years at perfecting a multitude of techniques, footwork and schemes. At Nandua High School in Melfa, Virginia, Todd was smash-mouth player on the defensive line. Virginia Tech sought out his talents at defensive tackle, but just before making the transition to the next level, Washington was given a proposal he couldn't refuse.

The Hokies backup center wasn't panning out as expected, so the offensive line coach told Washington if he played offense, he could forgo redshirting his freshman season.

Washington concurred, studying the positions along the interior line, and went on to play with the offensive unit all four years at Virginia Tech, helping the Hokies average more than 200 rushing yards per game his final two campaigns.

Washington, the son of a football coach, has been a 'student of the game' since day one, and his education has only continued to thrive with each new venture he accepts to add to his football repertoire. 

Whether lining up at guard or center, Washington is prepared to adjust and alter his state of mind to mesh with whatever function he assumes. What else could a coach ask for?

"The more guys you have as multi-position players, the better you're going to be," head coach Dom Capers said. "The old adage is the more you can do, your stock goes up."

Here in Houston, Washington's worth has skyrocketed through the roof.

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