Blades Big Hit(ter) In D.C.

As the Washington Redskins training camp enters its second week in preparation for the Hall of Fame game against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, second-year middle linebacker H.B. Blades already is making his presence known.

H.B. Blades rocked running back Clinton Portis in an early session and picked off quarterback Todd Collins later in the week, as the former Pittsburgh player is getting a lot of practice time as starter London Fletcher's backup.

In fact, while Fletcher is rested more often than not during the preseason, Blades likely will wear the helmet with the communication system for the Redskins defense, according to first-year head coach Jim Zorn.

"We have decided not to have a designated player that will wear the second speaker (during the season) because London Fletcher is an every-down player,'' Zorn said. "If the second guy goes in and London is not in there, we will get that player fitted with the second mike.

"Greg Blache has a learning curve as well, concerning how to communicate the calls, but he will get better at it as we go along. In the preseason, London will not play much, so it will be H.B. Blades or whichever other player is calling the defensive sets that will wear the speaker.''

Blades' role with the Redskins likely will increase because Fletcher is 32 and might not play much longer. Certainly, Blades will play a large role on special teams with Fletcher's time cut in that area. But the Redskins have several issues in their linebacking corps, along with Fletcher's age.

Weak-side linebacker Rocky McIntosh is coming off another knee surgery, and even when the Redskins drafted him there were serious red flags because of the condition of his knees that caused some teams to remove him from their boards. And strong-side linebacker Marcus Washington, like McIntosh, is a special teams star, but he hasn't been fully healthy in years. So, he might not play that much on special teams, either.

Blades and Khary Campbell give the Redskins some depth at linebacker, and both are strong special teams players as well. However, Blades size (5-foot-10, 236 pounds) is questioned by some Redskins writers who doubt he can be an every down player for an extended period of time.

"I've proven that I can play this game, but I guess I'll just have to keep on doing it for those who have questions,'' Blades said.

With Blades, Campbell, Matt Sinclair, Danny Verdun-Wheeler and Rian Wallace are battling for playing time as backups. However, some believe the Redskins need to scan the waiver wire to fine a linebacker with more size and experience.

Until then, Blades will continue to make an impact.

Note: The Redskins reportedly had 28,000 fans in attendance for their intrasquad scrimmage and Fan Appreciation Day Saturday.

WarPath Insiders, the Washington Redskins' Web site, also contributed to this story.

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