Redskins receiver David Patten didn't receive a million-dollar payday after finishing his college career. In fact, Patten spent a year in Arena Football before making the Giants in 1997. So Patten isn't worried about the likelihood of losing his starting job opposite Pro Bowl wideout Santana Moss to either of two newcomers, Antwaan Randle El or Brandon Lloyd.
"That said to me, 'Maybe D.P. is getting older, maybe he doesn't have it anymore, maybe D.P.'s not the answer,'" said Patten, who crashed from 18.2 yards per catch with New England in 2004 to 9.9 per catch in 2005 before an ailing left knee ended his season after just nine games. "I have to prove every day that D.P. still has it. All the so-called experts are counting me out, but the cameras don't lie. Our coaches know what D.P. is capable of doing."
Patten didn't feel he had a chance to show that last season after his knee, first tweaked in Week 2, was never right again.
"You always want to make a good first impression," Patten said. "That didn't happen. Without a doubt, the fans didn't see the real D.P. last year. I appreciated that Coach (Joe) Gibbs called me right after they signed (Randle El and Lloyd). He told me that this was a way to make our team better, more explosive and that it didn't affect the way they felt about me. I asked if he would play the best guy and he said yes. If someone else is better than me, I'll gladly back up."
Admirable and realistic. Even if the coaches won't come out and say so, Redskins owner Dan Snyder didn't shower millions on Randle El, 26, and Lloyd, 24, for them to be spare parts.
"David is looking good," receivers coach Stan Hixon said of Patten, who turns 32 in August. "He hasn't lost a step. We're going to find a way to get David some passes. David will be fine."
At least Patten's right knee, which he said was never truly 100 percent after the surgery which ended his 2003 season in October, is fine. However, there aren't that many backup receivers on the wrong side of 30, especially, if unlike James Thrash, they don't play special teams. Patten's salary cap number, a relatively affordable $1.848 million for 2006, explodes to $3.013 million next year.
And as terrific as new assistant head coach Al Saunders' offense was in Kansas City, four Chiefs caught as many as 35 balls just once in four years. With Moss, Randle El and Lloyd ahead of him at receiver and tight end Chris Cooley also a top target, it's difficult to see Patten getting many balls.
"Any receiver wants the ball," Patten said. "He wants to be the man. But putting your personal goals secondary to the team makes you a championship caliber team. If D.P. gets a lot of balls, I'll embrace it. If D.P. is clearing out underneath or cheering on the sidelines, I'll embrace that, too. When I signed that contract, I agreed to do what they tell me to do."