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Ever Loyal Bugel Discusses State Of the O-Line


In the 1980s, it was Russ Grimm, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Mark May and George Starke, among others. In the 2000s, it was Chris Samuels, Jon Jansen, Casey Rabach, Randy Thomas and Pete Kendall, among others.

No matter the era, Joe Bugel remains loyal to his "guys."

And as the Redskins re-evaluate the offensive line heading into free agency and the NFL Draft, loyalty remains part of the equation for Bugel.

"When you have been around guys for a long time, you see their ups and you see their downs," Bugel told Larry Michael on a recent broadcast of "Redskins Nation" on Comcast SportsNet. "You see how they prepare and play through injuries. You have to truly respect guys who don't miss a lot of practice.

"So you can get close to your players. They're family. We want this to be a family atmosphere. I enjoy being around the players. I listen to them, they listen to me. I'm concerned about their families just like they're concerned about my family."

Bugel accepts that he is open to criticism for loyalty to his core group of linemen.

It's an aging group--all five of the starters from last year are 31 years old or older--and there is speculation the Redskins may pursue offensive linemen in free agency and the NFL Draft.

"Right now, we're just looking at people in free agency," Bugel said. "We haven't made any decisions. It's a matter of gathering a lot of facts right now."

In terms of NFL Draft prospects, the evaluation process continues Feb. 18-24 at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

During the "Redskins Nation" broadcast, Bugel reviewed each of his five starters.

On six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels, Bugel said: "Chris got a triceps injury [in Week 14 at Baltimore] and he has to work extremely hard on that. We have to watch him real close because he is a super football player. That really hurt us when he got hurt down the stretch."

On left guard Pete Kendall, scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason: "We still haven't given up on Pete. He's a warhorse. He thinks he can play about 10 more years. I have a great deal of respect for him because he is a good football player."

Of veteran center Casey Rabach: "He is one of the top players I have ever coached at his position. His preparation is impeccable. He knows the offense inside and out. He knows the defenses we're playing inside and out.

"He's a strong cog on our football team. He's really a very quiet, unassuming leader."

On right guard Randy Thomas: "He is coming off neck surgery right now, but he has the capability--the way he takes care of his body--to play about 4-5 more years. He is a legitimate tough guy."

Finally, on right tackle Jon Jansen: "Sooner or later, when you get up in age, the injuries Jon has had can start haunting you. I don't think he was ever 100 percent [last year], but Jon can be a lot better at 85 percent than most other tackles.

"He's another legitimate tough guy. Hopefully this year he gets all cleaned up and he comes back ready to go."

Bugel does have a pair of young linemen he has tutored the last few years.

They could be part of the future.

Stephon Heyer started five games in 2007 and seven last year, alternating at left and right tackle. In his third year, the former University of Maryland lineman could have a chance to cement a starting job.

It was thought Heyer accomplished that last year, when he opened the season as the starter at right tackle, but a shoulder injury sidelined him until midseason.

"Stephon can be as good as he wants to be," Bugel said. "Randy Thomas and Chris Samuels have taken him under their wing and really worked him hard. His offseasons are critical because he grew up so fast as a young man he outgrew his body.

"Hopefully he can go through a season without having injuries. That's the thing he hasn't been able to conquer. Hopefully the third year is the charm for him because he has a great amount of talent."

Chad Rinehart, the Redskins' third-round draft pick last year, did not play as a rookie.

Bugel indicated that Rinehart showed signs of adjusting to the NFL game late in the season.

"I'm expecting a lot from him [in 2009]," Bugel said. "When we activated him toward the end of the season, the light bulb finally went on. The last 4-5 weeks of the season, he started perking up. He started realizing what the NFL is all about.

"He was coming from Northern Iowa and these college kids sometimes hit the wall in the NFL. With preseason, we play 20 games, and that's twice what he played in college each year."

Rinehart had to refine his technique and eliminate bad blocking habits before coaches feel comfortable putting him with the starting unit.

"He knows exactly what he needs to do to get ready for next year," Bugel said.

What about Bugel?

The veteran coach turns 69 on March 10, but he has shown no signs of slowing down.

He is beginning his 32nd year--15th with the Redskins--as an NFL coach. He has coached such memorable offensive line units as "The Hogs" and "The Dirtbags" in separate stints in Washington.

"Maybe I'm getting near the end--I think I have five more years in me," Bugel said, laughing.

Coaching alongside head coach Jim Zorn has helped reinvigorate Bugel.

"Coach Zorn is a fun guy," Bugel said. "He gives each coach responsibility and ownership in the program. He's a diligent worker and I enjoy being around him.

"He wants to be a great football coach and I think he's going to be that. He is all win win win."

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