Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong's unfamiliar role: Incumbent
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) - Anthony Armstrong isn't used to being an incumbent. He's finding it can be just as precarious as life as an outsider.
From West Texas A&M to the Intense Football League to the Arena Football League to NFL practice squads, Armstrong's entire football life had been focused on just getting his foot in the door - then hoping someone would actually notice.
The Washington Redskins bought in last year, making him a 27-year-old rookie. The not-so-overnight sensation with the charming smile started 11 games, caught 44 passes and finished second on the team with 871 yards receiving. His 19.8 yards-per-catch average ranked third in the NFL.
Coaches and teammates raved about his speed, but he knew his place in the big scheme of things - he would talk to reporters while standing against a post so as not to disturb Donovan McNabb, whose locker was next to Armstrong's.
But the Redskins haven't gone all in on Armstrong. Far from it. They drafted three receivers in April, then started stockpiling veteran wideouts once the lockout ended. Jabar Gaffney was acquired in a trade with Denver. Donte' Stallworth was signed as a free agent. Santana Moss was re-signed.
That has Armstrong a bit riled.
"It wasn't taken as a thing saying I wasn't good enough, it was just frustrating that they would bring somebody in at your own position,"
Armstrong said. "That's all it is. I just take it as a challenge. I want to rise up and be able to get better from it, take it as a challenge. It adds more fuel to the fire. I was going to work hard regardless. But I've got to work even harder."
Armstrong was working with the starters during the early days of training camp and spoke of "fighting off" the newcomers once they began to practice.
But now that the full squad is on the field, it is Moss and Gaffney getting the first-team work, with Armstrong entering the formation when it's a three-receiver set. Armstrong also had some drops early in camp, which he attributed to lapses in concentration.
"There's a big change from your first year to your second year," coach Mike Shanahan said. "You have a lot more confidence, you've been out there in game situations and you've made some plays. He's got a lot of confidence in his speed. He's got to work on the little things that it takes as a wide receiver to get to the next level. The consistency, the blocking, the catching the football, all the things that the great wide receivers want to do, you want to do it at a different level."
Armstrong is the type of player who would have benefited from a full offseason program, but he did his best to stay connected during the lockout. He was a regular at the Redskins' player-run minicamps and would meet up with quarterback John Beck to run routes. Just being on an NFL roster for a second straight year would an accomplishment for someone with such a long and winding background, but he wants his starting job back.
"You worked your way up, now you've got to fight and claw to keep everybody off your back and make sure you don't get stepped over or pulled down," Armstrong said. "And you've got to make sure your game rises up."
Notes: Two players signed over the weekend made their practice debuts Monday. LB Keyaron Fox has played seven NFL seasons, including the last three with Pittsburgh. He is familiar with the 3-4 defense and is expected to contribute on special teams. DL Doug Worthington spent most of last season on Tampa Bay's practice squad. ... LB Ryan Kerrigan returned to practice for the first time since suffering a bone bruise in his right knee on the opening day of camp. The first-round pick is wearing a brace on the knee and hopes to play in the preseason opener Friday vs. Pittsburgh. "I've got to be ready," he said. "I have no choice because the game's in four days." ... QB update: Beck remains limited after straining his groin during Saturday's practice and didn't take part 11-on-11 drills. Kellen Clemens was absent for personal reasons. ... WR Malcolm Kelly, already on the bubble to make the roster because of his history of injuries, could miss another week with an injured right foot. X-rays and an MRI were negative, but he's having trouble putting weight on the foot and was limited to riding a bicycle during practice. ... S Oshiomogho Atogwe (mild hamstring strain) and TE Chris Cooley (sore left knee) also did not practice. ... WR Brandon Banks returned after missing much of last week with a sore knee.