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Newberry Hopes to Break Through At LB

Talk to rookie linebacker Jared Newberry, and you'll quickly find out he's an ordinary guy with an extraordinary opportunity to play pro football. First, though, he has to break through a crowded linebacker corps that includes a mix of veterans and young players alike.

The 6-foot-1, 238-pound Newberry was a walk-on at Stanford as a freshman in 2001. He finished his Cardinal career with 159 tackles, 6.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

Newberry had his best year as a junior, accumulating 67 tackles, three sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles. He started all 11 games for the Cardinal in both his junior and senior seasons.

His college career was good enough to impress Redskins defensive coaches, who drafted him in the sixth round of last April's NFL Draft. Newberry admitted he was uncertain whether he would be drafted at all, so coming to the Redskins was a pleasant surprise.

Growing up, Newberry was a two-sport star. Newberry's grandfather played professional baseball in the Negro Leagues, so Newberry himself grew up playing baseball. He was a first baseman and centerfielder.

"Baseball was my best sport," he said.

Newberry didn't start playing football until he was in the eighth grade. It didn't take him long to fall in love with the sport. His reasoning was simple: "You could go out and hit people and not get in trouble for it."

In the Redskins' two preseason games, Newberry has logged six tackles and a sack. He has also participated on special teams.

The talented linebacker has received praise from head coach Joe Gibbs for his smarts.

Said Newberry: "I want to be a student of the game. I want to know as much as I possibly can. I want to be able to adjust on the fly and make the correct call in any situation."

Newberry is one of 11 linebackers on the Redskins roster. He's also one of three rookie linebackers. Needless to say, he's fighting hard for a roster spot.

"The linebackers are working hard," Newberry said. "Everybody is fighting to make the roster. I'm just trying to show what I can do on defense and then bust my tail on special teams because that's where I'll have my biggest role."

The other two rookie linebackers fighting for roster spots are Robert McCune (Redskins fifth round pick in 2005, 154th overall) and undrafted rookie free agent Zak Keasey.

McCune, 6-0 and 240 pounds, is a rookie out of Louisville. After serving three years in the Army National Guard, he went on to play in 51 games (started 27) for the Cardinals and recorded 320 tackles, six sacks and two interceptions over his four-year college career.

Nicknamed "The Hammer," McCune has used his intimidating size and good speed to impress coaches and teammates alike.

"He's laying his hat on people," Newberry said of his rookie counterpart.

Zak Keasey, 6-0 and 236 pounds, was signed by the Redskins after an impressive tryout in the team's rookie mini-camp in late April. At first, hardly anyone knew his name. To most, he was just the Princeton guy with the shoulder length dreads.

After an interception in seven-on-drills in the scrimmage at Baltimore and a sack for an 11 yard loss at Carolina in the preseason opener, he is earning a closer look.

Keasey had his best season at Princeton as a senior, compiling 127 tackles, eight sacks, 16 tackles-for-losses, four pass break-ups, two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

Marcus Washington, Lemar Marshall and Warrick Holdman have started the first two preseason games. Three-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington is waiting in the wings as he continues to get better from a knee injury that sidelined him most of last season.

That leaves Newberry, McCune, Keasey, Brandon Barnes, Khary Campbell, Chris Clemons and Clifton Smith all battling for limited roster spots.

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