ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — When Trent Williams had to rest his sore foot midway through Tuesday afternoon's practice, the first-team left tackle for the Washington Redskins — the player assigned to protect Robert Griffin III's blindside — became a thirty-something who is trying to eat his way back into the NFL.
Jordan Black, who had spent the previous few months trying to lose weight because he thought he was retired, no doubt felt right at home with the starters — because four-fifths of the first-team offensive line began training camp as backups.
"I can't tell you exactly where we're at with the offensive line," coach Mike Shanahan said, "until they heal up."
Right tackle Jammal Brown is listed as physically unable to perform because of a chronically ailing left hip that has his career in doubt. Right guard Chris Chester is sidelined with a sprained left ankle. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is recovering from left knee surgery and is expected to miss the rest of the preseason. Williams has a bone bruise in his left foot.
That leaves center Will Montgomery as the only projected starter working with the first unit by the time Tuesday's practice ended. The way things are going, he might want to start taking the elevator instead of the stairs — just to be on the safe side.
"There's something up, isn't there?" Lichtensteiger said. "Thankfully it doesn't seem as if anything that's happened is too serious."
But it is a serious fact that the Redskins (No. 25 in the AP Pro32) have allowed 40-plus sacks for three consecutive years — and Shanahan's efforts to rebuild the line have thus far born little fruit. And it is serious that the Redskins are starting to plan for life without Brown, whose health has been an issue since the team acquired him in a trade in 2010.
"You've got to be pretty lucky to know if a guy is going to come back if he is quite sore and had hip surgery and been through the things he's been through," Shanahan said. "We are going to be patient and see how quickly he can get well, and if he can, we will give him a shot."
The most extreme case of patchwork line reconstruction has been the decision to sign Black, who was starting to lose weight and had told his agent to send in retirement papers about six weeks ago. The 32-year-old tackle figured he was done, having spent last year out of the NFL following a six-year run that included 40 starts for three teams.
"I was just slowly but surely becoming a normal human being, I guess," he said.
But the Redskins called two weeks ago, so he showed up at camp and laid siege to the dining table. He was down to 270 pounds — far too small to play tackle in the NFL these days — so he started consuming about 7,000 calories per day while expending about 5,000 to try to work his weight up to 290.
As of Tuesday, he was at 281.
"I drink a lot more chocolate milk," he said. "I drink probably, like, eight protein shakes a day."
While he never lost a desire to play, Black had his doubts whether he could still bring it.
"My concern was being able to hunker down on a bull rush, having a defensive end running full speed at you," Black said. "I was worried that I might not be heavy enough to slow them down, but after the first couple of days of practice, it just goes back to leverage wins. Regardless of what I weigh, if I have leverage, I'll be all right.
"I don't know why there wasn't more rust. It could just be the perspective I have after being out for a year, and the excitement has kind of helped me kick it off quicker than I thought."
Despite Black's quick progress, the Redskins are in a heap of trouble if most of the injured linemen don't heal in time for the season opener on Sept. 9. Williams and Chester should be the first to return, with both expected to be practicing fully in a few days.
"Certainly, continuity is the goal," said Tyler Polumbus, who has been working at right tackle in place of Brown. "But any chance any guy gets to go out there and get some live reps, some live bullets flying at them; they're going to learn on the fly."
If not, Griffin could end up running a lot more than he wants this season.
Notes: WRs Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan both required IVs after being carted off the field for dehydration. ... WR Anthony Armstrong, who has a shoulder injury, put the words "Bob III" and the number "01" on his yellow non-contact jersey. It made for quite a sight when he stood next to the rookie quarterback, whose jersey has "Griffin III" and the No. 10. ... NT Chris Neild is out for the season after tearing his left ACL in practice on Monday.
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