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Parker Draws a Preseason Start


Willie Parker feels like a forgotten man.

He has trailed Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson – and even first-year back Ryan Torain – on the running back depth chart this preseason.

He has had just one carry – for one yard – in preseason.

This week, Parker is forgotten no more.

He draws the starting assignment in Friday's preseason game against the New York Jets.

"I'm excited to show what I can do," he said. "I guess I'm the running back who has been on the out, supposedly. So I'm definitely ready."

Parker has patiently waited his turn this preseason. He admits to feeling some pressure, though.

The Jets game could be his only opportunity to impress coaches before roster cut-down day. And the Jets had the league's No. 1 defense a year ago.

"There's pressure, but you can't crack," he said.

It's unusual for a running back of Parker's pedigree to be competing for a roster spot.

From 2004-09 with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Parker rushed for 5,378 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also had 84 receptions for 697 yards and five touchdowns.

His 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL marked the longest run from scrimmage in Super Bowl history, besting Marcus Allen's 74-yard run against the Redskins in Super Bowl XVII.

Released by the Pittsburgh Steelers last offseason, Parker found few suitors and eventually accepted a contract offer from the Redskins.

Whispers around the league suggested that Parker, a classic speed back with great cut-back ability, had lost a step.

The criticism and the questions only motivate him.

"Everything I hear, Willie Parker is on the backburner, he's this, he's that," Parker said. "I'm ready for any challenge in my way."

He should have fresh legs. He had just 98 carries last year (for 389 yards) serving in a supporting role to Rashard Mendenhall in Pittsburgh.

Parker said he enjoys playing in the Redskins' offense and that the scheme should produce big plays for running backs.

"After the first level, offensive linemen get out to block the defensive linemen, so you can get to the second level before you even start really running," Parker said.

He said he still needs to work on his pass blocking in the offense and he continues to improve his pass-catching skills.

"I've worked on catching ball out of the backfield," he said. "It's real important. You can catch a lot of balls in this offense. Sometimes the first option is the running back coming out of the backfield."

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