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Chris Baker: 'I'm A Grown Man, Now.'


A boulder of a man might never appear green, but Chris Baker would admit he had not matured in his early journey years. His talent was never the issue.

The 6-foot- 2, 333-pound defensive lineman has the strength and mass to anchor against centers and guards. He has light-switch quicks to beat tackles off the snap.

But it took the 26-year old a few years to consistently translate those skills. Since 2009, Baker went from undrafted free agent in Denver and waiver claim prospect in Miami to practice squad player, active contributor and eventually, in the 14th game of the 2013 season, a starter in Washington.

The Redskins rewarded Baker's development Thursday when the team re-signed him 12 days before free agency opens.

When he first earned a spot in the starting lineup, Baker reflected on the catalysts behind his maturation.

"I'm a grown man, now," Baker said at the time. "I kind of understand the ins and outs of the business of the NFL. I understand it's the little things that will allow you to play as far as being able to treat practice like a game. You have to be able to do everything right in practice before they trust you to do anything in the game.

"I think this year I've taken practice a lot more seriously and the film room a lot more seriously, and it's starting to show on the field."

In 2013 Baker appeared in 15 games and notched 46 tackles according to coaches film. He picked up his first career sack om Week 7 against the Chicago Bears, when he swatted away a blocker, curved around on a twist and spun Jay Cutler to the turf.

Jarvis Jenkins always knew Baker was capable of such a play, but his linemate's focus used to hold him back.

"He had to grow up and just be consistent as far as preparation," Jenkins said.

"He was the type of player to make a big play and then forget a simple assignment, so he's gotten more consistent doing the little things."

Jenkins said Baker boasts a "surprising" takeoff speed and an agile mind in play recognition.

Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams has watched Baker ratchet up his work ethic in practice. He said the defensive end has a "huge, huge ceiling."

"We're only seeing the tip of the iceberg right now," Williams said.

"It's hard (to block Baker) because he has such a fast, quick step. He has an array of moves to beat a guy with. He uses his hands very well, so you have to approach him with grave caution. Definitely one missed step, and he's in the backfield, so to keep a guy like that off your quarterback, it's an all-day task."

Baker is a buoyant locker room presence on the same row as Wiliams. He's the big man with a smile half the size of his face and a baritone laugh.

He has an abundant sense of humor in his downtime with teammates, but Baker said he's serious about one role.

Baker said he pays special attention to the practice squad players, who can see the benefits of their peer's diligence in his new contract.

"I was in their position, so I know their frustration of not being able to be active and play on Sundays, but it's a process" he said.  

"Even though you think you might be better than someone, it just takes time, so you have to be patient and keep getting better at your craft while you can."




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