Possible anchor right under Patriots' nose
FOXBOROUGH -- The call went out as early as last spring for a few good men. Or even one good man to anchor the middle of the Patriots' defensive line in their new 3-4 scheme. The options ran the gamut from veteran defensive end Rick Lyle to second-year lineman Jarvis Green to first-round draft pick Ty Warren.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn't feel totally comfortable, but he felt much better after a four-month courtship with veteran Chicago Bears nose tackle Ted Washington finally came to fruition late Tuesday night.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 375-pound Washington arrived at Gillette Stadium late yesterday afternoon from Chicago for what figures to be the last stop in a 13-season career that has included stops in San Francisco, Denver, and Buffalo.
The four-time Pro Bowler is not coming in as a savior or even a stopper, but as someone who can make some big defensive plays.
Belichick said the addition of Washington, whom they picked up for a fourth-round pick next year, is not necessarily a reflection on his other linemen.
"I don't think it's any kind of negative comment on any of our players who have played well in preseason," said Belichick yesterday after practice. "It should be a good addition. Any time you look at a player like that and find a place where he can help you in our style of defense, you do it. I think it fits well."
Belichick said he had flirted with getting Washington from the Bears since the spring, largely because he knew the Bears had more depth at nose tackle. But it didn't all come together until the last 48 hours. "Sometimes things come together, sometimes they don't," said Belichick.
Washington, 35, only played two games last season before he went down for the year with ankle and knee injuries. Although he has apparently recovered -- he played in the Bears' first two exhibition games -- Belichick said Washington has to pass a physical, but he doesn't expect that to be a problem. Neither does Washington.
He said he is primed and ready, starting with tomorrow night's game against the Eagles, although he acknowledges, "It kind of caught me by surprise. I didn't expect it, but I'm here now. I have to deal with it."
The Bears are behind him, and he is ready for a new challenge. "It's just part of the business," he said. "It's done. I'm excited to be here. It's a playoff team. I'm ready to go. Just give me the playbook, go with a few plays, get the kinks out and get back out there."
As for his injuries, Washington said, "My health is fine."
Prior to the setback, Washington had played in 119 consecutive games. "I definitely missed the game," he said. "That was the first time in my career I was out. I want to get back to where I was in Pro Bowl form."
As for playing nose tackle, one of the truly grunt positions in the game, Washington was philosophical. "Someone has to do it," he said. "When I went to Buffalo, that's where it started. The idea is to tie up a lot of guys, free up the middle."
Washington said playing time isn't an issue. At least right now.
"Whatever [Belichick] wants me to do, I'll do what I have to do," he said.
He has a year remaining on his contract and said he wouldn't mind finishing his career as a Patriot. Perhaps as a leader on a defensive unit that can get back to the Super Bowl.
"Most of the players on this team know me," Washington said. "I'm back in the AFC East. I'm looking forward to playing in this stadium." Patriots center Damien Woody, who has blocked against Washington, said it would be nice having him on his team.
"He's like an immovable object. He's tough to block. He's smart. He's a welcome addition to this team."
© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.