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Old Faces

This time of year there are fans all over the world waiting anxiously for training camps to begin in 32 cities across our land. Most, if not all of that attention is focused on the new faces their team as brought in to turn around the failure of last year, failure that is unless you are a fan of the Sons of Pittsburgh.

Some of those faces were stars on Saturdays last fall and are not just new to the team but new to the pro game itself. A few of those faces are old hands in the NFL but are basking in the glory of a big FA contract and laboring under the expectations that come with said contract. Many are journeymen in the NFL who play for different teams every couple of years, never become household names and are just thrilled to be playing the game.

In NY, fans of the J-E-T-S Jets have images of Broadway Joe dancing in their heads after the drafting of Mark Sanchez (a name familiar to any Skins fans who weren’t doing undercover work for the CIA in Siberia back in April). In Chicago, one Mr. Cutler brings hopes of a new Super Bowl Shuffle dance craze (another name the B&G obsessed might remember from April). And in the frozen north of Minnesota, the idea of Brett Favre dawning a purple and gold #4 jersey had, until this last week anyway, many Vikes fans giddy with anticipation (yet one more name that Washington fans…never mind…I’m sure you get the picture without me having to spell it out).

The nation’s capital is no exception to this with fans drooling senselessly over the new faces that go with the names Haynesworth and Orakpo.

Nothing wrong with any of it either. Excitement and anticipation are a wonderful part of the game before the season begins.

I want to put that aside for a moment though and, on the eve of training camp, look back on a couple of faces that won’t be there when the Skins gird up Thursday morning to start the season.

The faces of Jon Jansen and James Thrash, two guys released this spring by the team.


It is not personal. It is just business.

Or so they say.

Sports fans hear that a lot in the off season. We hear it from our team’s front office folks, from the player’s agent or agents, from the media, sometimes from other fans on our favorite team sites and even from the player themselves if that player is of a more cerebral nature.

It is easy to rationalize during the off season too.

Much harder, for me, come time for training camp. Especially if that player is, to steal a phrase made vogue by one Joseph Jackson Gibbs, a “core” Redskin.

Jon Jansen and James Thrash were two such core Redskins. At least they were to me and their absence at Redskins Park this week looms large for this Skins fan.

One could make the argument that not since Darrell Green hung it up 6 years ago have the Skins had a training camp void, for void it surely is, to compare with that of Jansen and Thrash. Perhaps the missing Lavar Arrington in 2006 counts but with the way that all played out you would have to work to convince me of it.

I am talking about the kind of absence left by a guy who broke in with the team you love and was with them a decade or more, who did what was asked of him even if it wasn’t necessarily what he wanted to do, who did not gripe or complain about money, whose name and number went together like peanut butter and jelly.

In short, I am talking about a lunch pail kind of guy who has been around long enough that his name is synonymous with that of the team.

Oh, I know some of you reading this would argue that Jansen hasn’t been all that in the last few years and that Thrash really never was. If that is how you view these two men, these two Redskins, then I am here to politely suggest that you might take another look.

Thrash reminds me of another slightly more famous Redskin wide out. You may have heard of him. He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame last year…name of Art Monk. Sure, their entry into the league was about as different as can be (Monk a 1st round draft choice, Thrash an UDFA) and their career stat lines are worlds apart.

That is where the differences end and similarities begin though.

Both were quiet men who much preferred to let their game do their talking, often going out of their way to avoid reporters. Both did exactly what was asked of them when in many cases it could be easily argued that what was asked was not glamorous, eye catching or career enhancing (can you see TO or OchoCinco being used on Special Teams for anything? Oh the drama.).

What Redskin rookie had a bigger coming out party than Thrash when he thrilled us with kickoff returns for TDs in back to back pre-season games to announce that though undrafted and already released once by the Eagles he would not go gently into that good night.

In short, James Thrash was a leader in a day and age when most guys playing WR would rather be a diva.

Jansen was simply the most dependable Offensive Lineman the team had right up until he suddenly wasn’t. Drafted in the second round he started right away on a team that would go to the playoffs and win a post season game for the first time since Gibbs retired the first time. All he did as a rookie was stonewall Michael Strahan. Twice. When Strahan was in his prime.
And the year he played with two broken thumbs for multiple games.

Jansen leaves this team as the longest current tenured Redskin since Darrell Green, having played in 126 games since being drafted out of Michigan in 99. He started 123 of those games.

On a team there constant turn over, the next big name and personnel inconsistency have been the only constants for over a decade, losing two guys in the same year who have 20 years in the Burgundy and Gold between is a big deal.

While the team may find younger, faster and stronger guys play RT, WR and Special Teams, they will be hard pressed to find two better men and role models to wear the jersey of the Washington Redskins.

And so, as a new season starts in Ashburn, to Jon and James I say thanks for the memories and good luck. You will be missed.
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