A day after safety Vernon Fox was cut by the Detroit Lions last August, he received a call from the Redskins. Soon after, Fox arrived in Washington with little fanfare, ready to join his new team.
Now, as the season winds down, he has been able to show steady progress with his new organization.
"From the first day, everyone here has treated me like I really matter," said Fox, a five-year NFL veteran. "That's always been important."
Originally signed to help strengthen the Redskins' special teams, Fox also improved depth of the defensive backfield. He began the season playing behind Sean Taylor and Adam Archuleta at the safety position.
The 5-10, 200-pound Fresno State product has been a big part of coach Danny Smith's special teams units all season long. In fact, the only special teams unit that he has not played on is the field goal team.
By Week 11 in Tampa Bay, Fox was seeing significantly more playing time at strong safety after starter Troy Vincent suffered a hamstring injury. Fox recorded four tackles in a game the Redskins dropped 20-17.
The following week, Fox made his first start as a Redskin. He registered six tackles and intercepted Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme in a 17-13 Redskin victory.
In that win, Washington's defensive backfield held Carolina wide receivers Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson to a combined 72 yards.
"When you play defense the way you are supposed to play it, you get your opportunities," said Fox. "We took advantage of our opportunities."
Asked about Fox and what he brings to the defense, Gregg Williams said: "As he has gotten more comfortable, he's done very well. He has earned that right to get on the field.
"We've had him in some packages that we haven't been able to get out there before, but we made a couple moves to allow him to get out there in a normal package. He has played pretty well. You could see those kinds of things coming with how active he is on special teams."
Fox, a native of Las Vegas, entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent with the San Diego Chargers out of Fresno State following the 2002 draft. He made an instant impression, playing in all 16 games, starting three and making 23 tackles.
He posted a similar season in 2003 for the Chargers, but was hampered by injuries that kept him out of four games.
Fox was picked up by the Lions in 2004. It was in Detroit that Fox fine-tuned his role as a special teams player, with 14 appearances in 2004.
The following season, his importance grew when he was named a special teams captain of the Lions.
Now, in Washington, he has jumped ahead of Archuleta in terms of playing time and could see expanded playing time as Vincent continues to rehab his hamstring injury.
Fox hopes to impress coaches enough that it leads to a long-term stay on the Redskins' roster.
"I'm grateful for this chance with the Redskins," said Fox. "When I got here, I was told that I'd have a role on special teams, but I never stopped viewing myself as a safety. It has paid off."
Added teammate Kenny Wright: "Vernon has adapted to this defense more and more as the season went on. He's got a love of natural ability and it's starting to show."