At this point, Washington has come to expect the unexpected, and any injury that won't keep him off the field in 2009 is one he can laugh about now. The shoulder surgery that kept him off the field for the entirety of the 2008 season, however, wasn't quite as easy to deal with
"I was kind of coming into my own, starting to make a couple of plays, and to get set back like that was rough," Washington said. "But I guess that's what life is all about. It's about perseverance."
Learning those off-field lessons was Washington's reward for a year on the sideline. He hurt the shoulder last spring after completing a solid 2007 season in which he appeared in 11 games, including six starts, and made 40 tackles.
Last season was a setback, however, and he spent the majority of the year running non-contact drills with the scout team and working with the other linebackers in the film room. It wasn't exactly how he had hoped his senior season would unfold, but he said it was far from a wasted year.
"There's no better teacher than experience, and last year I didn't get a lot of on-field experience, but I got a lot of film time," Washington said. "I got to listen in on what the coaches were saying, and I got to watch. I saw the guys out there and see what they do wrong and say, ‘OK, that's not right, I've got to do it this way.' You learn a lot like that, and I think it's going to help me this year."
Now entering his fifth season with the Bulldogs, Washington said he expects the battle for the starting middle linebacker job to be wide open this spring. He'll likely battle Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent for the role, but said he's less concerned about how often he's playing than he is about how often the Bulldogs are winning. With one last chance to win a championship, Washington said the team's success remains his top priority.
"I don't want to focus everything around me because it's bigger than me," he said. "Yes, it's my last year here, but at the end of the day, it's not about me winning championships, it's about the team winning championships, and I just want to be a part of a championship team."