ASHBURN, Va. -- Barry Cofield is the nose tackle for the Washington Redskins now, which is not what he necessarily wanted to be when free agency began. His first choice, he said at the time and says still, was to remain with the New York Giants. But the fact that the Giants didn't re-sign him didn't make him bitter.
"No hard feelings at all," Cofield told me in an interview after a Redskins practice here Tuesday. "Now, don't get me wrong. I'm excited about Sept. 11 and the prospects of playing those guys. That fires me up. But definitely no hard feelings. I definitely think I should be able to come back to the Super Bowl reunions and not get booed."
In the end, Cofield said, the Giants made a "respectable" offer, but that they "weren't able to be competitive because of their salary cap situation, and that's the economics of the game."
"They made their bed when they made the signings that they made at defensive tackle," Cofield said. "Guys like Rocky (Bernard) and Chris (Canty), they spent a lot of money on those guys. They're already invested in Canty, and that’s the guy they have to stick with. They drafted guys, and if they feel like they get a great value with a defensive tackle, with all the other positions of need they have, I was the odd man out."
He was surprised when the Redskins called, because he'd been a 4-3 defensive tackle in New York and the Redskins run a 3-4 scheme. But having played in a 3-4 in college, he liked the idea and the fact that the Redskins sought him out to be the man in the middle of their defensive line.
"They've definitely spelled out what they expect from me, and it's something I think I can do," Cofield said. "You're not taking on double-teams. It's not necessarily about two-gapping and being a 350-pound monster. Nose tackles come in different shapes and sizes, and I feel like I have my own fit, they obviously envision me in their defense, and we have a common vision."
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan told me Cofield and Stephen Bowen were two defensive linemen the Redskins had targeted going into free agency because of their ability, their age and their character. He said he had no concerns about Cofield adapting to the 3-4.
"He played it in college and played exceptionally well," Shanahan said. "You go back to film and you watch. He can give you all the calls of the 3-4 defense when you talk to him on the phone, so he's played it before and he's exceptionally bright. So whatever he does, he's going to be a consummate pro, and those are the guys you look for when you put a football team together."
Cofield likes the fact that the Redskins came to him. He liked, obviously, their contract offer. And the 3-4 is the defense in which he feels he fits the best. He remembers talking to the Steelers, Patriots and Cowboys before he was drafted and being surprised that the Giants, a 4-3 team, were the ones who took him.
"I thought there was a good chance I'd be going to a 3-4 defense. It just happened five years later," Cofield said. "I'm excited about it. I've always liked the 3-4 defense, I think it's an effective defense, I think there's a reason teams like the Steelers and the Ravens are always on the top of the league defensively. I think it fits my abilities perfectly. It's a defense that's built on technique, leverage and discipline, and I think those are my strengths."
He was known in recent years for his pass-rushing ability with the Giants, but Cofield said that's not really what he's all about as a player.
"I'm a guy that's disciplined, and I play with great pad level, leverage, technique, use my hands and I’m not the guy who’s aggressively flying upfield," Cofield said. "I did that when called upon in New York, and it was good for me to diversify my game, diversify my repertoire by doing that, but coming into NY, I felt like I was a guy that was better suited for a 3-4."
Now he's in one, and he's excited about making the transition. For Shanahan, who tried unsuccessfully to talk Albert Haynesworth into doing the same thing a year ago, that's pretty refreshing.
"Whoever you bring in," Shanahan said, "you want to make sure they have the right mindset."
He's got that in Cofield, who can't wait to get into that 3-4 and get at the Giants in that season opener.