Jason Hatcher spent the first eight seasons of his career wearing a Dallas Cowboys uniform, but on Monday night will have to find the one place in AT&T Stadium he had never previously visited: the visiting team's locker room.
Hatcher on Monday will make his first-ever appearance against his former team, as his Redskins take on the Cowboys on Monday Night Football.
"Never been over there, but I am excited to go see it," Hatcher told reporters when asked if he had ever been to the visitor's locker room in Dallas. " I know it's nice. Jerry [Jones] got it all fixed up for us."
Hatcher entered the league in 2006, when the Cowboys made the big defensive lineman out of Grambling State their third-round (92nd-overall) pick in that year's NFL Draft.
Hatcher paid his dues as a backup for the first five years of his career – starting just one game in Dallas from 2006 to 2010 – before eventually becoming a full-time starter in 2011.
Hatcher saw improvement each and every year of his career, which culminated into a monster season in 2013, when, in 15 games, he recorded a career- and team-best 11 sacks and was selected to his first Pro Bowl.
He signed with the Redskins this offseason and has continued leaving his imprint on the field, with three sacks and several more quarterback pressures to his credit entering Monday's game against the Cowboys.
Hatcher said he's trying not to think too much about his first game in Dallas as a member of the Redskins. Instead, he wants to focus on doing his job and keeping his team headed in the right direction after last Sunday's 19-17, last-second win over the Tennessee Titans at FedExFIeld.
"I was there eight years of my career," Hatcher said of Dallas. "I had a great career there, but I am approaching this game like any other game. It is a must-win for us. So I am concentrating on being the best player I can be to help our defense play the best they can."
Hatcher immediately established himself as a team leader upon his arrival in Washington, and said he feels the Redskins are headed in the right direction – much like the Cowboys, who enter Monday's game with a 6-1 record.
"You know what, it is slowly but surely coming in," Hatcher said of a culture change for the Redskins. "I am just being the guy that I have always been, the leader that they expect me to be. And some things you're not going to like that I say, but I am here to be that leader and that voice. So, I've just got to continue to do it and I think the football team is going in the right direction."
Hatcher said he's been adding his two cents in at meetings a little more this week, as he tries to dish out as much knowledge about the Cowboys and their offensive line as possible.
"I practiced against three of those guys up front," Hatcher said. "They are really good players man. So, I know a lot of stuff – a way to beat them. I have been sharing it as much as I can to try to go out here and get this victory."
The 32-year-old defensive end – who has totaled 29 tackles, three sacks, 12 quarterback pressures and one pass deflection so far this season – said he's also looking forward to getting after Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who was off limits in practices the past eight seasons.
"I enjoy rushing the passer, man. That is what I do," Hatcher said. "I love it so it just happens to be my old teammate. It's going to be great."
Overall, Hatcher realizes what a win over Dallas Monday night could mean for his team moving forward. He said returning to his old stomping grounds will be nice, but by no means is it anything more than a business trip.
"I think you've just got to be locked in to what is at stake for this football team, and I am," he said. "And what's at stake is another win. So, that is what I am focusing on. I am not going out there trying to be no hero or nothing like that. I am just going to continue to be the player I am. I am not going to go do nothing special, try to be no hero, but I am going to go out there and play the best I can."
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