In Their Words: Dan Wilkinson

Redskins defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson knows he might never live up to expectations after he was selected first overall in 1994. But he's accepted that. He also knows that he's playing as well as he has in years. Wilkinson leads the Redskins with 18 quarterback pressures, nine more than anyone else. And his play up front has enabled the linebackers to flow freely to the ball.

''This year is my most complete year as far as playing the run and the pass because I've been very healthy. Three years ago I had those two shoulder surgeries--they cut off the end of my collarbone on the left and scraped it. Then I had two followup surgeries two years ago to get rid of the scar tissue.

''Then last year I got banged up a couple of times and that put me back. There were times I couldn't stand for 20 or 30 minutes without my shoulders bothering me, just the actual gravity of pulling them down would absolutely kill me. It's hard. I was on Advil, anti-inflammatories and a lot of ice. I tried to deal with it the best way I could.

''But when you don't have shoulders as a defensive lineman, then you don't have a defensive lineman anymore. I played with that for years and it was horrible.

''Now I'm very aggressive. I know that I'm going to attack that man. By no means is he going to block me one on one. If not I'll create havoc all day. That's what teams will be forced to do. Denver started chipping with a back trying to slow me down. I know without a doubt they can't single block me.

''Even when we were losing I had very strong games, but you couldn't see that because we were losing. But I've been feeling strong and one man hasn't been able to slow me down. Once I get myself going I know they have to put two men on me. If they don't then I'll eat them alive.

''One of the biggest things that hampered me when I came out of college was I didn't have a good line coach, from a technical standpoint someone that could really teach me how to do it and what to do. But coming here and being under coach [Mike Trgovac] and the defensive coaches we've had, it's been very special.

''But my career has been up and down. I've never made it to a Pro Bowl, but I was an alternate three times. I'd like to make it to a couple of Pro Bowls and get a couple Super Bowl rings and I'd be 100 percent satisfied. I don't even have to make it to any Pro Bowls, but I definitely want a ring. That's the crest of this game, what it's all about.

''From a maturity standpoint I've grown way past trying to live up to expectations. It's not even a thought anymore. But it took a while. My thing is to play hard and do what I'm capable of doing and not let my teammates down. My teammates look to me not just for big plays on the field, but for an emotional uplifting in the locker room and on the sidelines.

''My demeanor helped get past that. It's just one of those things where I wasn't going to let the game change me as a person. I've been this way all my life. I can't let the media pressure or the fan pressure or any other pressure stop me from being who I really am. That's the way I've always been and I won't change.''

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