In Their Words: Robert Jones

Robert Jones entered the NFL as a middle linebacker. But he's become much more than that, making him a versatile player for the Redskins. He's filled in at the strongside, and has since started the past three games on the weakside. The run defense has improved the more he plays. Here are his thoughts on his role and playing on the outside.

''At my age you have to learn as much as you can. It not only gives you an advantage on the field, but it also lets the coaches know that here's a guy who, if someone gets hurt, we can move him to this side and there's no problem. Hopefully teams will see that, especially the Redskins.

''Up until I joined Miami in 1998 I had played middle linebacker. Then Jimmy Johnson called me in June of '98 after the Rams released me and asked if I wanted to play linebacker for him. My question to him was, 'I thought you had Zach Thomas there?' He said, 'That's what I want to talk to you about. Zach is our guy in the middle and we want to try you out at one of the outside spots.' Because Jimmy knew me and he was making the call, I gave it a shot. I surprpised myself at playing the outside. When I got in there and started playing it, I liked it just as much as playing the middle.

''One of the reasons I was able to make the change is my desire of wanting to just play. If you're the type of guy that's stuck in one position and only good at one position, then you're going to think and feel that way. You'll never be able to play somewhere else and be productive.

''My desire and will to want to play was high. I felt I had been cheated in St. Louis when I was released so I just wanted to play. When the opportunity was there, it wasn't where I wanted it to be but if I wanted to play, I had to play this spot. And I did it well, actually in '98 I played better than I had my whole career.

''Even though I felt Antonio Pierce was a good player, he understands the game and doesn't play as a rookie, but some teams were taking advantage of his size. He's a tough guy, but teams took advantage. The coaches saw it. When he got hurt it was an opportunity for me to be in there and I took the approach as a middle linebacker and I was like, 'No one's going to run a lead over here and if they do, it's going to be tough.' I'm a physical guy so I took a physical approach to the game. That's the type of player I've always been. Regardless of the position I'll make it difficult for a fullback to run in there thinking they'll run the ball to the weakside.

''But playing that position makes you a little more vulnerable to the pass so it made me more aware when I had to move out and cover. I had to understand the defense more. But what happened is by playing the weakside it taught me to learn the game even more, where my help is, what to look for when I'm out there playing in space.

''When I was playing middle linebacker, I considered weakside linebacker and to me the name explained itself. Weakside. Teams normally look at it and think we'll run to the weakside. And defenses try to protect them a lot with a defensive lineman.

''I've tried to let them know that weakside doesn't necessarily mean weak side. You don't run over here. That's my mentality. I'm going to have that mentality. The past four or five games I've let people know it's going to be tough. People will still run over there and come that way, but it's going to be tough. That's what I want them to get in their mind.

''I've always been able to develop a relationship with the players beside me. That's what made Zach and myself such good players. In St. Louis it was me and Mike Jones. We can make adjustments that coaches don't think about which is what Kevin and I have done. In Miami, I knew exactly how Zach would respond to certain plays. That's what LaVar and I and Kevin have started to do.''

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