Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has been playing the last two games with what he describes as a "little chip" in a bone in his right hand. Hardly sounds ideal, a pass-rusher handling 300-pound linemen with a slightly swollen extremity. Even the polite gesture of shaking hands has been uncomfortable at times.
No big deal, he says. Kerrigan is among the last to make any kind of excuse.
"It doesn't feel good, but it's not so bad really," Kerrigan said. "It's really not an issue."
In contrast to, say, quarterback Robert Griffin III, Ryan Kerrigan somehow manages to live a drama-free existence in the Redskins locker room. He's been a model of consistency since he was drafted No. 16 overall in the 2011 draft, with 7 1/2 sacks as a rookie, followed by 8 1/2 in both 2012 and 2013. This year, he leads the team with 7 1/2.
Recently, however, he's been highly critical of his own play. No sacks and only six total tackles in the two games since he hurt the hand in the win over the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 27. Only one sack since fellow linebacker Brian Orakpo was lost for the season with an injury on Oct. 19, which has since allowed opposing offenses to put more of their focus on stopping Kerrigan.
"I need to be productive no matter who we're playing, no matter who's playing alongside me," Kerrigan said. "I've got to be a lot more productive than I've been the last couple of weeks."
In a way, Kerrigan carries the banner for the sizeable group of Redskins who go about their jobs in the shadow of the constant swirl of attention paid to Griffin, coach Jay Gruden and others who — purposefully or not — have fomented the notion that the Redskins (3-7) are all dysfunction, all the time. Kerrigan keeps his tone positive and tries to remain oblivious to the back-and-forth that follows games like Sunday's 27-7 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"After the game, I knew things were going to be pretty negative towards us," he said. "So I didn't look at Twitter, didn't look at anything. Just went home."
When he did hear of Griffin's comment that great quarterbacks "don't play well if their guys don't play well," Kerrigan didn't take offense.
"I never felt that way when I saw what Robert had to say," Kerrigan said. "And I don't think anyone on this team would try to throw anybody under the bus."
It's hard to find a coach with a critical thing to say about Kerrigan. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said Kerrigan has had to take it easy in practice because of the hand injury, but that it hasn't appeared to be a problem in games. He said Kerrigan has held his own even as the rest of the team has struggled.
"It's always good to have great players around you. That makes you better," Haslett said. "(But) Ryan has done a good job. He's consistent in everything he does."
If there is a knock against Kerrigan, it's that he hasn't become more of a vocal leader now that he's in his fourth year in the NFL. In anything, the Redskins have an oversupply of "lead-by-example" players and not enough of the type who will stand up and say something when something needs to be said.
"It's not my nature, but I feel like I probably should (speak up) a little more, but at the same time that's not the type of leader I am," Kerrigan said. "I'm the type that is going to try to go out and do the right things. That's not really me (to speak), but maybe that's what I need to be."
"If you play well enough, make enough plays, you won't have to talk," he said. "That's what I'm trying to do. I want people to see me play. I want to be seen, not heard, you know what I mean?"
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