A conversation with Chris Samuels

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
10:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

 
 Rob Tringali/Getty Images
 Chris Samuels has made five Pro Bowl appearances.

Just as the Pacman story was breaking Wednesday evening, I had the opportunity to spend 30 minutes on the phone with Washington Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels. Now in his ninth season out of Alabama, Samuels has played for five different head coaches.

He's been to the Pro Bowl five times, which is the second most for an offensive lineman in club history. Samuels credits Jim Zorn for not allowing the Redskins to lose their confidence after a miserable season opener in the Meadowlands.

"The Giants actually dominated us for four quarters," said Samuels. "Everyone had pretty much written us off. But coach Zorn's one of those people who never gets too low and never gets too high. He provided outstanding leadership during a tough time."

In the days following the 16-7 loss to the Giants, running back Clinton Portis was critical of the play calling and the offensive line's performance. Samuels said he and Portis were able to laugh about the criticism because "he didn't really mean it."

He said the turning point in the Redskins' season came when Jason Campbell connected with Santana Moss on a 67-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter against the Saints.

"Ever since then, we've been clicking and rolling," Samuels said.

Samuels gives offensive line coach Joe Bugel a lot of credit for the Redskins' success in the running game. When the group watches film together, Bugel is "disgusted" by linemen who don't use proper technique. Samuels thinks too much is made about the team's success running to the left side because "the guys on the backside have to cut off blocks."

He said that "90 crease" and "90 press lead" have been the team's most successful running plays. In "90 crease," Portis lines up in the backfield by himself and the line zone blocks outside. In "90 press lead," fullback Mike Sellers lines up in front of Portis and the Redskins run it to the left side.

Several of the linemen read tight end Chris Cooley's blog all the time, mostly out of fear that they might be mentioned. Samuels said he's heard The Cooley Zone blog is "hilarious," but he prefers reading about politics right now.

Samuels, who grew up in Mobile, Ala., likes making the trip to Selma for the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, which commemorates the Voting Rights march from Selma to Montgomery. He said he met Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton the last time he attended the event.

He also met former President Bill Clinton at the Washington premier of "Remember the Titans" during his rookie season in 2000.

"President Clinton walked up to me and said, 'Chris, I'm so glad you're here.' He had watched me play at Alabama because we played Arkansas every year."

He said he's voting for Obama because he thinks the Democratic presidential nominee will look out for the less fortunate.

"I grew up poor in Alabama so I know what it's like to struggle. Now that I have some wealth, it's very important that I use it as a tool to help people."

Steering the conversation back to football, we talked some more about Zorn. Samuels says that backup quarterback Todd Collins does a fantastic Zorn impression in which he mimics the coach's infamous speech on headgear.

Apparently Zorn doesn't like for his players to wear large headphones while warming up before games, and he demonstrated by "bopping his head around and executing a few dance moves."

Honestly, aren't you glad Dan Snyder had to move on to Plan C and hire Zorn? He's got this Zen quality about him, and it seems to be working extremely well. Samuels said he asked Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and his wife about Zorn when they saw each other at the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

"His wife told me she cried when Zorn left Seattle," Samuels said. "That tells you what kind of guy he is."

After his playing days are over, Samuels said he wants to coach football at the junior high or high school level. He said he's not interested in coaching professional football at all.

"It's too time consuming to coach in college or the pros," he said. "Family's very important to me, and I want to be able to see them all the time."

Samuels and Portis have both joked that the league attempted to knock the Redskins out of the NFC East race early by making them play three division road games in the first five games.

"[The league] tried to get us out of there early," he said. "At least that's what it seemed like."

Now the Redskins are on a roll, and Samuels said he's having the time of his career. The only thing that bothered him was the news about Pacman Jones being in trouble. He said he tracked down Pacman before the game at Texas Stadium two weeks ago to let him know he was praying for him.

I thought you guys could use a positive story after hearing about Pacman for the last 24 hours.

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