Marcus Washington returned to the Redskins' starting lineup on Sunday, recording six solo tackles in the 28-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
One day later, Washington felt sore from the hard-hitting game. He didn't mind, though.
The alternative? Not playing at all, something that Washington has been all too familiar with this season.
Prior to the Dallas game, Washington had missed four of the last five games due to a nagging hamstring injury.
The veteran strong-side linebacker had high hopes for 2007. He was supposed to step in as more of a pass rusher this season, but the hamstring injury slowed him considerably.
The hardest part of missing games? He feels he hasn't been able to stay in the flow of the Redskins' 16th-ranked defense.
"It's tough watching from the sidelines, because you just want to be a part of it," Washington said. "You feel helpless. You always watch games--and even watch film--thinking to yourself, 'I can make that play.'
"But the only thing you can do with an injury is to try to root the guys on, and if anybody has any questions, try to help as much as you can."
The good news: Washington emerged from the Dallas game in good health and he should be able to play in this Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Washington is a player who doesn't hide his emotions on the football field. He brings a surplus of energy that teammates feed off of at practice and during games.
His presence was missed as he rehabbed the hamstring injury, head coach Joe Gibbs said.
"If you come out to practice, I don't care what the weather is, Marcus always brings an excitement to it," Gibbs said. "He will be out here chest-bumping people and loving it. He brings excitement to the other players around him. He elevates everybody around him."
So far this season, Washington has 29 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble in six games played.
In preseason, he suffered a dislocated elbow injury, but he was still able to play in the regular season opener.
As a result of his injuries, Washington has slipped under the radar a bit on defense due to the leadership and play of middle linebacker London Fletcher and the fast development of second-year weak-side linebacker Rocky McIntosh.
Those two are first and second on the team in tackles, respectively.
Any obscurity doesn't seem to bother Washington, although he knows he has to work harder to be seen.
"You definitely have to get on your horse if you want to get a piece of somebody," he said earlier this season. "Sometimes, it's tough to get a piece of a guy with everybody flying around. You have LaRon [Landry] and Fletch and Rocky's flying, Andre [Carter].
"A lot of times you get hit by your own guys, friendly fire out there because everybody's just flying around having a good time. Guys are hungry. When I'm out there, I just want to be around the action."
Washington is in his fourth season with the Redskins after playing his first four in Indianapolis. He has been instrumental to the success of Washington's defense in recent years.
In 2004 and 2005, when the unit earned top 10 rankings in the league, he finished No. 2 in team tackles both years. In 2004, he also was named Quarterback Club Redskins Player of the Year and made his only Pro Bowl appearance.
One of his best games as a pro came in the Wild Card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, this Sunday's opponent.
In the Redskins' 17-10 win over Tampa Bay, Washington recorded a team-high eight tackles and logged an interception and a forced fumble.
In a bizarre but memorable play, Washington forced a fumble by Carnell Williams and scooped the ball up. He ran seven yards, but fumbled himself. Taylor was there to pull in the ball and run 51 yards for a touchdown.
Washington's interception came on Tampa Bay's final drive and secured the Redskins' first playoff win since the 1999 season.
In 2006, Washington finished third on the Redskins in tackles but sat out the final two games because of a knee injury.
Without him, the defense yielded 579 total yards to St. Louis and allowed Giants running back Tiki Barber to rush for a career-high 234 in the season finale.