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Lichtensteiger Proud Of Courageous Season


The Ed Block Courage award is given to one player on each NFL team that exemplifies the courage and passion shown by the man for which the award was named.

Given the way his 2011 season ended, his 2012 season began, and the underdog story of his career, Redskins offensive guard Kory Lichtensteiger was a worthy recipient of the award this season.

For Lichtensteiger, it was a testament to the perseverance that has defined his five-year NFL career.

"It's very cool. It's something the players vote on, your teammates vote on. To get that vote of confidence from them, I think it's very cool," he said. "I'm very honored by it.

"I'm pretty excited to be able to represent the Redskins and the city for that award."

Lichtensteiger was a former fourth-round pick by the Broncos in Mike Shanahan's final season in Denver.

Despite having a four-year rookie deal, he was cut just one season later. He was claimed off waivers by the Vikings, but was cut shortly after, spending the season as free agent.

When Shanahan landed in Washington in early 2010, one of his first signings added Lichtensteiger via a futures contract.

After losing the training camp battle, Lichtensteiger claimed the starting left guard spot in Week 3 and never looked back.

He entered training camp 2011 as one of the most consistent performers along the line, and one of the bright spots in the team's hot start.

That ended abruptly in Week 6, when Lichtensteiger was felled by a potentially career-ending injury, as he tore both his ACL and MCL, setting up a long, difficult road to recovery.

After a quick start to training camp, Lichtensteiger needed an arthroscopic procedure that threatened his availability for Week 1 against the Saints.

Battling through soreness that would plague him all season, Lichtensteiger was cleared to play and made his first start in 11 months in New Orleans.

"There's always a certain level of pain and stiffness," he admitted late in the season. "I think it's worse throughout the practice week than anything. After games, it feels pretty rough."

To keep Lichtensteiger in the lineup, Shanahan and the coaching staff made a concerted effort to limit the practice repetitions late in the week and protect his knee.

"Wednesday and Thursday, it's pretty nice to have a coach like Mike [Shanahan] that takes care of his players," Lichtensteiger explained. "You're not in there pounding on each other throughout the week. Usually by game day it's feeling OK.

"I don't notice too much during the game except when you go to overtime, you really start feeling the grind."

The Redskins played one critical overtime this season against the Baltimore Ravens, when the offense recovered from an eight-point deficit in the game's final minute.

On the team's two-point conversion play, backup quarterback Kirk Cousins followed his blocks up the middle for a two-yard quarterback draw to tie the game.

After the game, Lichtensteiger deflected praise to his teammates, particularly at the quarterback position.

"It was nice and really good for Kirk [Cousins] to come in and perform like that," he said. "Just as an offense as a whole, to show the football world that we're not just a one-trick pony, having a triple-threat quarterback that can do everything as the only reason we're winning.

"Robert certainly is the man, and is a huge part of this offense, but being able to show that you're capable without him is a pretty fulfilling thing for us."

In Week 15 against the Cleveland Browns, starting center Will Montgomery suffered a knee sprain late in the game, forcing Lichtensteiger to move over to center.

Despite having not played center in a game since college, Lichtensteiger was in sync with Cousins and helped seal the Redskins' eighth victory of the season.

"I felt pretty good, actually," he said after the game. "I've been taking a good amount of reps from the mid-point of the season on in practice. I kind of had to channel my inner center from two or three years ago. It's been a while since I've taken a game rep there."

Lichtensteiger said he would be receptive to playing center more often in the future and reckoned that his skillset was better suited to the middle of the line.

Unlike seasons past when the Redskins were dangerously low on depth, Lichtensteiger expressed confidence in the talent throughout the offensive line and roster.

"We had a bunch of different combinations through the preseason. Of course, I wasn't in there at all," he said. "It's not like these combinations of people have never played together. We do get practice reps together. Those second team guys cycle in to give guys breathers.

"Everyone does a pretty good job in practice and I think we all know what we're doing. They have the timing down of our offense pretty well. I think everybody who is in our group has ability. It's always fun to see a young guy or someone who is untested come in and see what they do under pressure.

"I'm not too worried about the scenario whoever is in there."

With that being said, Lichtensteiger attributed the offensive line's success this season to the fact that the starting unit started all but one game together. That continuity built cohesion that propelled the team to the playoffs.

"I think it's very important," he said of the consistency. "We haven't really had, through the last three years that I've been here, the same core group of guys make it through the whole season.

"It's nice to not have to adjust, not so much what you're doing, but the timing of everything, the execution of everything, just because you have new guys in there that aren't used to running the offense the way we're doing it right now."

Although he would never take the credit for it, Lichtensteiger's courageous performance was a big part of the unit's success in 2012.




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