Old Man Washington still a force on the gridiron

Steve Doerschuk

The only sure things in NFL life are death, taxes and retirement before age 40.

Ted Washington will turn 40 two days before the 2008 IRS filing deadline.

Ted is old. Ted isn’t dead.

“People have talked about Ted Washington,” General Manager Phil Savage said coming off the 2006 season.

The talk: Washington was washed up.

“Really, when you go back and look at the tapes,” Savage said, “Ted had a pretty consistent year. I don’t think we were discouraged at all.”

Going into a new season, Washington is back as the No. 1 nose tackle, still carrying an estimated 375 pounds on a 6-foot-5 frame.

“He’s having a pretty decent camp,” Head Coach Romeo Crennel said. “I think he’s still effective.”

Washington’s job is to be a Hoover Dam on Lake Erie. He is to be a stone wall on running plays: Blow into the backfield if the offense dares to block him with one man; more often, neutralize two blockers so linebackers can fly to the ball.

It’s real grunt work. Nobody knows it better.

His rookie year with the 49ers was Bill Belichick’s first as Cleveland’s head coach.

Washington has played in 231 NFL games. Six important linebackers who played in the Browns’ first half Saturday’s against the Chiefs — Kamerion Wimbley, Andra Davis, Antwan Peek, D’Qwell Jackson, Chaun Thompson, Leon William — have played in a combined 246 games.

Ninth-year pro Lennie Friedman, a center and guard, feels Washington’s full weight during practice.

“Teams go into games kind of assuming they’re not going to be able to run inside against Ted,” Friedman said. “He’s such a big, powerful man. Even a double-team doesn’t really do a whole lot.”

Hall of Fame guard Gene Hickerson played at about 255 pounds. Friedman’s daily weigh-in fluctuates between 280 and 285 pounds.

“If I don’t have outstanding technique against big Ted,” Friedman said, “he’s literally going to pick me up and move me out of the way. I’ve got to get leverage on him, get my hands inside.”

The Browns are Washington’s seventh team. Recent stops include New England, where he helped the Patriots win a Super Bowl, and Oakland. He joined the Browns last year and had a good year statistically. His 61 tackles were the most since he was in Buffalo in 2000. Can he hold up another year?

Washington, married with five children, is a private person. He can come off as a grumpy old man.

Crennel, at 60, is old enough to be Washington’s father and sees another side.

“I don’t know why you don’t think Ted is a leader,” Crennel said. “I’m telling you that Ted is a leader.

“He coaches guys on the field and in the locker room. They listen to him. If a guy that big talks, you better listen.”

Reach Repository sports writer Steve Doerschuk at (330) 580-8347 or e-mail: steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com

TRAVELS WITH TED

The most successful team seasons of nose tackle Ted Washington’s career:

14-2 seasons: 1992 49ers; 2003 Patriots.

13-3 season: 2001 Bears.

11-5 season: 1999 Bills.

10-6 seasons: 1991 49ers; 1993 49ers; 1995 Bills; 1996 Bills; 1998 Bills.

Note: Washington played in Pro Bowls in 1997, ’98, 2000 and 2001.

THE SURVIVOR

Ted Washington was a No. 25 overall draft pick (49ers) in 1991. Among the 27 first-round draft picks that year, he is the only one still playing. Notable 1991 picks drafted before Washington:

No. 1, DL Russell Maryland, Cowboys; final NFL season was 2000 with Green Bay.

No. 2, DB Eric Turner, Browns; died of cancer on May 28, 2000.

No. 16, QB Dan McGwire, Seahawks; brother of slugger Mark McGwire was deemed a bust after two years, when Seattle opted to draft Rick Mirer.

No. 24, QB Todd Marinovich, Raiders; lasted two NFL seasons.