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With Strength Returning, Increased Expectations On Stephen Paea

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A tough first season for Stephen Paea ended with a turf toe injury. Now he's back on the field, flashing potential as the team hopes for better results from him in 2016.

Despite being one of the most powerful players in the NFL today, Redskins defensive end Stephen Paea could barely stand the pain.

Check out images of veteran defensive end Stephen Paea during his first few months with the Washington Redskins.

In early December, Paea, 28, was placed on Injured Reserve with a turf toe issue.

"Your toe is a piece of glass and it gets to a point where you bend it and bend it then it gets to a point where it breaks," Paea described of his injury. "But they tape it and all that so it doesn't bend, so when that glass breaks, that means you sprained it again."

With his hand planted in the dirt, all of the pressure on Paea's feet are on his toes.

"When you get off the ball that big toe is a big key there and when you sprain that big toe it's hard for you to have your full, 100 percent get-off," Paea said. "Which is not good for you as a defensive lineman. So now, I'm still doing treatment and all that to help me stay around or close to 100 percent."

Paea elected not to have surgery to remedy the issue, returning healthy during offseason workouts, but he missed the final two weeks of activities at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va., after dealing with the losses of his grandmother and his father.

"Mentally, yes it has been tough, but I still got to take of business as far as being out here and competing," Paea said. "I got to make sure I'm in the best shape so I can come out here and get a chance to compete out here and help the team."

While Paea has made appearances on all three units for the defense while at training camp, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has noticed showing up "a lot lately."

"He's showing his strength," Gruden said. 'He's a very, very strong human and he's showing that power once we put the pads on. He's one of those guys that will really show up when you put the pads on, not so much when you don't have the pads on because he can really use his strength and his power, and he's shown up. So he feels good. I know he's looking good, and we're hoping he has a good year."

Paea – who recorded a career-high six sacks in his final season with the Chicago Bears in 2014 – still doesn't know quite yet what his role will be in the defensive line rotation, but the coaching staff believes he'll be more of an impact player in his second season with the Redskins.

"I have expectations for him, and he has high expectations for himself," Redskins defensive line coach Robb Akey said. "I know he wanted to play better and I expect he will. Again, that's our job to help him to grow that."

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