Rabach making the right moves for Redskins

ASHBURN, Va. -- Hunched over the football with his helmet on a swivel to locate blitzing linebackers, center Casey Rabach begins every play for the Washington Redskins' offense His line calls and decisions are a critical element to a blue-collar offensive line that has built major pathways of real estate for running back Clinton Portis.

And Rabach's choices tend to be right lately, especially his decision to leave the Baltimore Ravens and sign a five-year $13.75 million contract with Washington last March that included $4.5 million in guarantees.

His Redskins (11-6) leave town Friday for Saturday's NFC divisional playoff against the Seattle Seahawks (13-3) at Quest Field. Rabach, 27, has started every game, including a 17-10 wild-card victory last week over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite setting an NFL playoff record low with 120 yards of total offense.

Plus, Rabach and his wife, Nicole, are thrilled with the birth of their daughter, Alana Nicole, last spring. Shortly after leaving Baltimore, Rabach became a father and purchased a big house in Leesburg near Redskins Park.

Rabach is thriving on the football field and in the traffic-plagued Washington suburbs.

"I have nothing bad to say about the Ravens' organization, I never had a problem with them, but I love it here and I knew the Ravens had made a commitment to Mike Flynn and that I wasn't going to be in their plans," Rabach said Wednesday at his locker stall. "We've got a great group of guys, a terrific coaching staff with Joe Bugel and Joe Gibbs. It was a good decision that worked out great for me.

"Northern Virginia is really neat because it's still kind of rural, which fits my background. This is a blue-collar team, and that fits my style of play. We come right at you. This is a match made in heaven.

The Ravens signed Flynn to a multi-year contract the year before Rabach, a third-round pick in 2001 out of Wisconsin, emerged as a force on the 2004 team with Flynn out with a broken clavicle. With their money already committed to Flynn, the Ravens had no room for Rabach when he became an unrestricted free agent last year.

In Washington, Rabach has made a lasting impression beyond his uncommon toughness, intelligence and athleticism.

At 6-foot-4, 302 pounds, Rabach is able to dunk a basketball with two hands without a running start. However, he made more of a statement by not missing a single day of the offseason workout program.

"If your teammates feel you can play, they put their arms around you," Bugel told reporters in August. "If they feel you can't, they shun you. They know Casey can play. Casey is a very, very stout pass protector. When he touches you, he stops you.

"He's a 300-pounder, but he plays bigger than that. Casey has super quickness inside, and he's a powerful guy. Casey understands football. He's a very intelligent player."

Bugel often gives Rabach the freedom to pull to take advantage of his ability to track down linebackers and safeties in the open field.

Portis cut off Rabach's blocks to gain 1,516 yards to break the Redskins' single-season rushing record of 1,432 set by Stephen Davis in 2001.

Portis eclipsed 100 yards nine times in the regular season before being limited to 53 yards on 16 carries while being hampered by shoulder pain and the Buccaneers' hard-hitting, top-ranked defense last week.

"I think Casey has really helped us," Portis said."We're not going anywhere without him. Casey strengthened up our whole line. He's made all the right calls and all the right decisions."

Rabach remains a country boy from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., who hasn't let money change him.

Besides spending time with his family, hunting and fishing remain his favorite pastimes. That has helped his assimilation with a roughneck group of blockers affectionately nicknamed ‘The Dirtbags.'

"Casey's arrival has been huge," right tackle Jon Jansen said. "We don't just accept anybody into the offensive line, it's a special group. Casey's a guy who came in and didn't expect anything to be handed to him.

"He really took control of the offensive line and I think that's why we've had great success. He's a guy from the Midwest like me who's had to work for everything he's got. Not a lot of us are God-gifted athletes."

Rabach is playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder that's going to require offseason surgery. He laments that it's going to cut into his deer-hunting trips.

"We all have similar backgrounds, we all love the outdoors," Rabach said of the offensive line. "It's a close-knit group. Even though there's a huge business side to it now, it's still fun.

"I never want to lose that. I bring toughness, intelligence and an attitude that I'll do anything for the team. I would never go out there and not compete to my fullest."

 

In addition to being a long time contributor to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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