As soon as defensive end Erasmus James arrived at Redskins Park, team officials told him to slim down about 15-20 pounds.
That was all James needed to hear to know that the May 27 trade sending him from the Minnesota Vikings to the Redskins was a good thing.
James, who stands at 6-4, played at 275 pounds during his three seasons in Minnesota. That was about 15 pounds heavier than his playing weight at the University of Wisconsin.
"I'm excited to get back down to [about 260 pounds] because that's where I think I'm best at," he said.
James's position coach in college was John Palermo, who is currently the Redskins' defensive line coach.
He excelled under Palermo, logging 124 tackles, 18 sacks and seven forced fumbles in his career. He even earned the nickname "The Eraser" for his pass-rushing ability.
"It's a big plus to be back with Coach Palermo," James said. "I understand what he wants and what he expects from me."
Each of the last two years in Minnesota, James suffered knee ligament injuries, including a torn ACL. He finished both years on the club's injured reserve list.
When the Vikings signed Pro Bowl defensive end Jared Allen in free agency this offseason, James was suddenly expendable.
It was a surprising fall for James, who was a first-round draft pick (18th overall) in 2005.
He sees an opportunity in Washington to rejuvenate his career. He originally visited Redskins Park in April 2005 on a visit as a prospective draft pick.
"The trade did come as a surprise, but at the same time I'm very happy to be here," he said. "I came here on a visit before the 2005 draft, so now I'm finally here and everything is working out for the best."
Defensive coordinator Greg Blache called James the "icing on the cake" of the Redskins' offseason.
"He was a guy we picked up late, and he was not in the plans early on," Blache said. "If we are smart about it, we can maximize him and get whatever he has got in the tank out of him.
"Where coaches go awry is when they take a guy and push him to play before he is ready. We're going to let Erasmus play when he is ready. If it takes us a little while, we'll have the patience for him to get well."
James's most recent surgery was last December to repair a torn ACL in his left knee.
He is in the last stage of his rehab from that surgery.
"I tried to come back too fast the first time I had surgery [in 2006] and now the second time I want to do it right," he said. "I think I've found a great place to try to get that done."
James is attending the Redskins' OTA practices this week. He is watching from the sidelines while working with Larry Hess, the team's physical therapist.
"I'm excited about getting back on the field," he said. "My knee is feeling better. I'm about a month to two months off, so I should be ready for training camp."