As he adjusts to a new team and role in the Redskins' defense, Greg Toler is focused on building community in the locker room and being accountable when he's on the field.
It's been easy to forget about him.
The Redskins made the biggest splash of the offseason when they signed cornerback Josh Norman in April. Then, a few weeks later, they drafted Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller. People talked about how the additions, with Bashaud Breeland returning from his best statistical season, would enhance the Redskins secondary and solidify any pass coverage weaknesses from the year before.
Lost within that discussion, however, has been cornerback Greg Toler, the free agent the Redskins signed in April after a three-year stint as a starter with the Colts. He was added to provide depth at the position and has been playing snaps with the second-team defense during OTAs thus far. His return home – he graduated from Northwestern (Md.) High School and attended Saint Paul's College in Lawrenceville, Va. – has been, understandably, under the radar.
But that's the way most of his career has gone.
Toler nearly gave up football when his high school grades didn't qualify him for college. He stocked shelves at J.C. Penny until a local coach asked him to play for the D.C. Explosion in the Regional American Football League.
Soon, the head coach of St. Paul's, a historically black college, saw his film and asked if he'd be willing to play and help revive his program in the process. He did both, and caught the eyes of NFL scouts, and eventually the Arizona Cardinals, who drafted him in 2009 (he remains the only NFL player drafted from St. Paul's after the school's football program was shut down in 2011).
"You always question the saying, they'll find you, the NFL will find you," Toler said after he signed. "And I definitely want to attest to that."
So far, Toler's experience in the last two weeks has been positive even as his usual starting role has taken a back seat to others. He enjoys the locker room, is getting along with coaches and is building camaraderie with his teammates, something that's helping his transition in Washington as he carves out a more defined place in the defense.
Check out images from the Washington Redskins' defense and special teams during their sixth day of OTAs at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
"We just feed off of one another," Toler said of the secondary. "We always say one person makes a play we all make a play and we're just trying to build one another and use each other. Iron sharpens Iron. Man sharpens man."
That general attitude doesn't make Toler too worried about his place within the group of corners at this point. He knows there are valuable players that will compete for time with him – Quinton Dunbar after an impressive position switch last year, to name just one – but also approaches OTAs the same way his defensive coordinator does.
Starting spots and depth chart projections are not written in "sharpie," as Joe Barry described it last week. The month of June is about competition, but it's not deciding Toler's fate just yet.
"I think being a complete professional you always want to come and do your best and push the other guy to do his best so I think it's just the natural competition amongst everyone offensively, defensively, and special teams," Toler said. "I don't really think people look into it too much, but it's just natural. One person makes a play it just makes you want to go out there and make a play.
"You try not to play into it too much. You try to go out there and get minimum reps when you're not out there and just execute your job when your number is called. Whether it's nickel, whether it's base or whatever it is, I just try to be accountable."
As it stands, DeAngelo Hall and Will Blackmon, both of whom have been longtime cornerbacks, have been receiving first-team reps at safety in the process of transitioning to a new position. Their natural sensibilities playing on the perimeter of the field is noticeable to Toler, who has already benefited from their guidance calling out plays and positions behind him.
"Honestly, it definitely is [noticeable] because they can relate to the cornerback position, so when we're in certain coverages they know where they have to help more because corners get more stressed in certain schemes," Toler said. "It definitely helps when you have guys back there that know the outside and then they're moving inside and playing off the quarterback, so it definitely helps."
That Barry is someone he also respects only helps his comfort level and his understanding of where he will fit into his scheme.
"He's a straightforward guy and puts us in great situations," Toler said of Barry. "Players can always relate to that when your coach has your back on and off the field."