Since linebacker Mason Foster joined the Redskins in early 2015, he's found his love for the game again and gained greater perspective about his career.
Having finished a recent weight lifting session at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park, linebacker Mason Foster walked up the stairs from the locker room a little tired but bristling with positivity.
In the nearly two months he's had to decompress from the disappointing finish to the team's season, Foster, besides a brief visit to his home in Tampa, Fla., has been sticking around Loudoun County, Va., coming to the facility each day for the last month to work out with teammates. Coaches pass through the lobby to say hello, his two kids spend time at a daycare just down the road and the weather has been unseasonably warmer this month.
"I feel good," Foster said with a smile. "I'm just trying to find that balance between resting and still getting good work. I'm running more, getting back to my linebacker stuff. I'm feeling good, I'm excited for April…I love being here. It's been a cool, good offseason."
Despite the sour note to start the year – a New Year's Day loss to the Giants that cancelled the Redskins' playoff plans – consecutive winning seasons for the organization have given Foster a renewed love for the game of football. The energy from the front office down to his teammates in the locker room in his two years with the team have inspired him and rekindled his enjoyment of coming to work every day.
"The last two years definitely made me love football again," Foster said. "Having so much fun with the guys, win lose or draw, I was looking forward coming into work. I wasn't dreading dealing with the coaches or anyone in the building. I was looking forward to it because we had a good time, I was learning a lot and it rejuvenated me. It made me want to keep learning and searching for more knowledge, and helping out the young guys. I had a blast and I look forward to keep going and doing what I can to help this organization win and get to the big show.
"Sometimes people forget that it's a game. It's a job too but you have to have fun and I love it, I love being here."
Foster had indeed forgotten that during his fourth season with the Buccaneers. The University of Washington product had yet to play on a winning team in his three years of NFL experience, and a new front office and coaching regime in 2014 provided another challenge.
In the second game of the year, Foster dislocated his shoulder and missed six games altogether after suffering an Achilles sprain later in the season. It wasn't the way his contract year should have gone. He eventually signed on with the Bears that offseason but was cut prior to the start of the 2015 season.
A couple of weeks later, the Redskins gave him a call and signed him to provide depth at the linebacker position, where he would eventually earn a starting role by the season's end.
The Washington Redskins on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2015, announced the signing of linebacker Mason Foster. Take a look at his NFL career in photos.
"The way free agency went and then getting cut it made me question and I've never been the type of guy to quit or question anything," Foster said. "For the first time in my life I was sitting there and my friends and family had to encourage me. And once I came here it was exactly what I needed. Even if I wasn't starting, I had a great time being a part of this team. I knew I made the right choice by continuing to play."
Foster signed a two-year contract last offseason, providing him some stability at a place that finally feels like home.
"They let you be yourself, have fun and play the way you play," Foster said. "But at the same time they teach you what you need to know to get their point across. That is big, when you go to organizations and they let you be who you are and show your personality off and on the field. I felt like once I got here and around the guys and competition, everybody is pushing each other in a positive way and all the positivity, it was something that made me gravitate towards being here. I was coming here during my off days hanging out, lifting, and doing whatever I could. The trainers are great, it made me love football again and fall in love with the game."
As he begins to amp up his workouts in the next few weeks, Foster knows this will be a defining year for the defense. The team hired Greg Manusky, last year's outside linebackers coach, as the new defensive coordinator to replace Joe Barry. Manusky has promised to implement more aggressiveness and communication on the defense, something the team lacked as the year wore down.
Manusky, a former linebacker who spent time in the Redskins organization as a player, appeals to Foster because he can relate to his circumstances throughout the season.
"He's been there and has been in the trenches with those guys before," Foster said. "He has played in the same situations. He knows what it's like when your kids are sick and you stayed up all night with them and you come into work. He has been there. He has taken on double teams and stuff before. If anything what he says might hold more weight than other coaches or some people. Just the fact that he has been there before means a lot to me and to other players."
Like with any new coaching change, Foster knows there are uncertainties, especially without knowing what the team will do in free agency and the draft. But, after leading the team with 124 tackles last year, and continuing to feel refreshed this offseason, Foster is ready to embrace the new season.
"I think any new year even with the same coach is always a little bit exciting and nerve racking," Foster said. "But it's a good nervous because I think we are heading in the right direction. All these coaches are great and it starts with Jay [Gruden] and Scot [McCloughan]. They are going to put us in the right place to make plays and we just have to go make the play. You just have to buy in right away. He is the leader of this defense and Jay is the leader of this team and I believe in everything they have going on. I'll run through a wall for either of them. That's what you want out of players and I'm excited."