An­der­son: Prac­tices at Alabama ‘a lit­tle bit rougher’

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - BY MATTHEW PARAS

RICH­MOND | If Ryan An­der­son had elected to stay at Alabama for his fi­nal year of el­i­gi­bil­ity, the Red­skins rookie line­backer es­ti­mated he would have most likely been fin­ish­ing up his con­di­tion­ing test and pre­par­ing for train­ing camp. In­deed, Alabama’s fall camp started Thurs­day.

But An­der­son, Wash­ing­ton’s sec­ond round pick, is with the Red­skins now and has been in train­ing camp for a week — pick­ing up just how dif­fer­ent the NFL is than Alabama.

“Prac­tices there are a lit­tle bit rougher than here,” An­der­son said of his al­ma­mater. “We do a lot of bang­ing around there, so it def­i­nitely pre­pared me phys­i­cally and men­tally for this grind I’m do­ing now.”

Come again? Did An­der­son re­ally just say Alabama was tougher than the NFL? Not quite.

There’s a com­pe­ti­tion level in the NFL that is leagues above than what An­der­son has ex­pe­ri­enced.

“I’m not tak­ing no reps against no fresh­man that are just coming in from high school,” An­der­son said. “All th­ese guys are good and they’ve got fam­i­lies to feed, man. So, you have to go hard ev­ery play out there. You just try to get your foot in the door and get your feet wet, but you’re go­ing to have to earn it.”

The Red­skins are count­ing on An­der­son to earn it. He was part of a Red­skins draft class that pri­or­i­tized de­fense, in­clud­ing se­lect­ing his fel­low

Alabama team­mate Jonathan Allen in the first round.

At Alabama, An­der­son was a ver­sa­tile de­fender. Nick Sa­ban used him as an in­side and out­side line­backer, rush­ing him off the edge. He had 8.5 sacks and 61 tack­les in his fi­nal year.

Red­skins coach Jay Gru­den has used An­der­son in a sim­i­lar way, so far. An­der­son has taken snaps mostly with the sec­ond and third teams, be­ing used in pass rush­ing sit­u­a­tions and as a nickel line­backer. He has oc­ca­sion­ally seen snaps with the first team.

Gru­den said play­ing in huge games with Alabama helped make An­der­son NFL-ready.

“The SEC, you can ar­gue all you want, is the best con­fer­ence in foot­ball and they played great com­pe­ti­tion week in and week out,” Gru­den said. “Ev­ery game was a huge game for them, not to men­tion their record was what it was. Their de­fense was as stel­lar as it was. They got tons of turnovers. I think they scored a touch­down in like 10 straight games on de­fense, and they just had that men­tal­ity of run­ning to the ball.”

An­der­son un­der­stands why NFL prac­tices are less phys­i­cal. “At this level, it’s all about pro­tect­ing the play­ers,” he said.

In col­lege, coaches are fo­cused more on de­vel­op­ment.

“You’re bring­ing play­ers out of high school, and you have to got to see if they’re tough,” An­der­son said. “You’re go­ing to make them tough if they’re not. We do a lot of team run, a lot of blitz pe­ri­ods. It’s a lot of bang­ing go­ing on down there.”

An­der­son, how­ever, still has his mo­ments of prac­tic­ing like he’s still in col­lege. Vet­eran line­backer Ma­son Foster has seen An­der­son go at the speed of col­lege prac­tices and coaches have had to ad­vise the rookie to tone it down.

“Coach will dial you back a lit­tle bit. It’s not al­ways take you down to the ground, full con­tact,” Ma­son said. “But even then, he feels the tempo. Like I told him, you’d rather be told to slow down than to speed up. And he un­der­stands that.”

Foster said, so far, An­der­son has been “every­thing as ad­ver­tised.”

The two have traded barbs over last year’s Col­lege Foot­ball Play­off semi­fi­nal be­tween Alabama and the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton, Foster’s alma mater.

The Crimson Tide won 24-7 and An­der­son had a game-chang­ing pick-six near the end of the first half.

“Every­thing you see against the Huskies is ex­actly what he brings to the ta­ble,” Foster said. “He’s a ver­sa­tile foot­ball player, smart in­stinc­tive. You know, I can’t be too mad. When I see him in per­son and I see how he is ... you could see why he did it to my Dogs like that. I’m glad he’s on my side now.”

An­der­son, though, in­sists he didn’t in­dulge in talk trash with Foster.

“There wasn’t much to say, man,” he said. “Ya’ll saw the game.”

Wash­ing­ton Red­skins line­backer Ryan An­der­son said the prac­tices in col­lege at Alabama “def­i­nitely pre­pared me phys­i­cally and men­tally for this grind I’m do­ing now.”

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