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Now healthy, Darrick Forrest wants to play 'my brand of football' in Year 4

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The 2024 season will be a big one for the Washington Commanders. It'll be the first under new head coach Dan Quinn, who has brought in new philosophies and a mostly new coaching staff to usher in a new era for the franchise that will hopefully lead to more wins on the field.

Darrick Forrest, one of the picks from the former regime entering his fourth season, will be part of that recalibration on defense, and he'll be there when the Commanders kick things off in Week 1.

Forrest was one of the better stories for the Commanders in 2022, going from special teams contributor to key piece of the team's secondary. A shoulder injury five games into the 2023 season prevented him from replicating that in Year 3, which brought some new mental obstacles with it, but now that he's fully healthy, he's ready to get back to his old self.

"I'm excited for this year," Forrest said. "I'm extremely excited. I really just want to go out there and play my brand of football."

Forrest, a fifth-round pick from Cincinnati, was drafted mostly because of his enthusiasm for special teams but showed some potential to be a larger piece on defense. It turns out that his potential blossomed into something more during his second season, as he finished second on the team with 88 tackles and led his fellow Washington defensive backs with four interceptions.

While things started well enough for Forrest in 2023 -- he earned the starting safety spot opposite Kamren Curl and played every defensive snap in his first four games -- he injured his shoulder near the end of Washington's 40-20 loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 5.

Dealing with the injury, Forrest said, put him in a mental box.

"I just wanted to be outside...and just mingle with people," Forrest said. "Just be involved with my community. I just wanted to be outside of the box I was trapped in last season. Just being injured and just being in the house, not being able to be interactive with the team as much as I wanted to and just not being able to be a physical piece of the team that I needed to be."

Forrest did what he could to keep his mind occupied while his shoulder healed. His go-to was video games, but that got boring after a while. He heavily leaned on his family, who he spoke with every day. He didn't always want to talk, mostly because he ended up saying a lot of the same things multiple times, but he understood that that people like his mom, dad, siblings and uncle just wanted to check on him.

"I had to rewire my brain to just work, because I didn't feel right emotionally, so physically I had to get myself back in shape," Forrest said. "Mentally, they [Forrest's family] knew that it was gonna be hard for me. Just being a football player and not being able to play football is the most challenging thing."

Forrest's recovery went off without a hitch, and being back with his teammates gave him a much-needed burst of energy.

"I was always smiling. I was happy," Forrest said. "Every time I came here, I was here with a smile on my face, trying to bring high energy, because it transfers, man. Guys feel it."

Forrest is anxious to show what he can do this upcoming season, but he doesn't feel like he has anything to prove. His biggest goal is to play a full season and get back to the level of play that he showed the last time he was on the field.

He's also eager to see how he fits into head coach Dan Quin and defensive coordinator Joe Whitt's new defense.

"That gets me excited," Forrest said. "You wanna run and hit? Oh yeah. That's my brand of football. There's something about being physical. It just brings excitement to the game. And when you hit somebody hard, that adrenaline gets going."

Forrest and his teammates are just starting to dive into how Whitt and Quinn's defense is expected to operate. It's been a "real hands on" experience, he said, and the coaches have gone to extra efforts to make sure the team is connected and on the same page.

He doesn't know exactly what his role is going be once the team begins training camp in a few months. He's not concerned about it, either, as long as he's doing what he does best.

"I just wanna go out there and ball out, have fun, and just play my game."

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