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Catching Up With Chris Horton

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2008 was a pretty up and down year for Redskins fans. In January we had a return to the playoffs, that turned to a crushing loss to the Seahawks. Followed by Joe Gibbs retiring, after what was easily his most challenging season as a head coach.

The 2008 draft, which was new head coach Jim Zorn’s first, has turned out to be largely a disaster. 2nd round picks Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have been complete busts with Devin being let go last year and now fighting for a roster spot for the Giants (who we play in oh about 14 days by the way). Malcolm on the other hand has just not been able to stay healthy. There is serious doubt that Kelly will be able to make this team after missing his 2nd consecutive Training Camp.

One of the few bright spots that season was 7th round pick Chris Horton. Horton’s uncanny knack to make the big play (and not to mention those awesome dreads) made him an instant fan favorite, earning him a slew of regular season awards.

Ever wonder what Chris thinks about: Jim Zorn, “The Dream Team”, The New Attitude at RedskinsPark, Devin Thomas’ “Deadskins” Comment, The New York Giants, September 11th, or Madden 12?

Cool so did we. Last night we pried Chris away from a little Sunday Night TV in his Hurricane Irene shelter to chat with us.

So sit back, relax and enjoy the Son of Washington dot com exclusive interview with Washington Redskins Safety, Chris “The Predator” Horton.

When we called Chris for the interview, it went to voicemail at first which made for the always awkward “Hey I’m leaving a voicemail but your calling me back right now so I have to go now” Voicemail message… Sorry about that one Chris.

SOW: I appreciate you taking the time to pick your brain for a few minutes tonight.

CH: No problem man, I was so caught up in this Inside 9/11 show, I looked at the phone and was like I don’t even know this number, I’m just gonna finish watching this show. Then it hit me, I have something to do tonight. I had to call you back.

SOW: No problem man. I have to say it’s been a fun preseason so far. Obviously the team has looked a lot better this year. After the first 3 preseason games, fans are starting to get really excited, whether the media is or not. It’s exciting because it looks like there is a totally different mindset or attitude to the team this year, from what we have seen in the past. Do you guys feel that or?

CH: You know, I think what it is, is that everyone is buying into the system kinda what we did last year. Last year was just the first year of installing the systems you know offensively and defensively. So the guys have to feel comfortable enough to actually go out and execute it at 100% and this year that is what we are basically doing, as a team and we are getting the results we want (on the field).

SOW: Obviously it’s been mentioned that in the past the Redskins have been this sort of “Fantasy Football Team”, where they have been collecting names, and selling jerseys. But this year, the off-season moves were a little bit quieter but it seems like there is a lot more chemistry and a larger concept of team than what we have ever seen.

CH: Coach Shanahan has a plan, you know. His plan was to get the best guys that fit his system, and that we could bring in to help us win. I feel like everyone from outside felt that last year we didn’t play as a team. I just felt like we were together, but there were little things that weren’t quite there as far as everyone being on the same page as far as the schemes. But now that we have all had a year to be in these systems, it looks that now all of a sudden everyone is playing together. Well now everyone fully understands the system and knows how to help the other person.

SOW: I gotcha, and obviously the change to the 3-4 is a BIG change under Greg Blache you guys had a top 5 ranked defense, you obviously had an incredible rookie year. But you see a new regime and a complete over hall. The 3-4 switch takes a little time especially for the D line and the Linebackers. But for Safeties and D backs is that really a big scheme change or is it just a little bit different up front.

CH: For us, it’s different mainly in how people are going to attack you as far as the run game, that’s a little different than the 4-3 system. I mean, coverages are coverages, you’re gonna play zones you’re gonna blitz. Those don’t really change on the back end. You are going to get those in every defense. It’s usually up front, is what changes a lot and then the different ways you can blitz out of the 3-4.

SOW: And that’s big because coach Haslett is a guy who seems to like turnovers. Does the pressure up front lead to that? I mean I have noticed a huge increase in QB pressure this year, outside of Orakpo and Kerrigan getting sacks against Baltimore there were 5-6 other times I thought Flacco was going to go down. With that pressure do you guys expect more turnovers than even last year; is that something that Haz is still preaching?

CH: It’s certainly emphasized every time that we go on the field. Whether that be trying to strip the ball getting fumbles or trying to get interceptions, its something that we want to do throughout the season is get turnovers. We know that the teams who rank high in turnovers are usually the teams still in it toward the end of the season, so it’s definitely something that we want to do and continue to keep doing.

SOW: You were a guy who was brought in by Zorn. Vinny Cerrato is still in town when you were brought in. It’s a big difference, for the outside looking in with Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen coming in. A year later, what are some of the differences in terms of team concept and chemistry? Do you guys notice a difference, or is it just same old same old?

CH: Honestly, it’s really hard to tell you know? Here you have a coach in Coach Zorn, you know, who had never been a head coach before, and it’s kinda unfair to compare him to Coach Shanahan because, here you got a guy who’s been in the league for 25 years and won Super Bowls. Coach Zorn ran things the only way he knew how, and tried to do it that way. Coach Shanahan has done it for a longer period of time and knows what it takes to run a team, that’s the only real difference. We have guys who are here, willing to work and grind, not for the name on the back of but for what’s written on the front.

SOW: Absolutely. That’s so huge, especially to fans. I feel like, I am a fan of the team first and the name on the jersey second, so it’s really refreshing to hear the mindset shift from what we have seen in the past. That’s exciting for me and it has to be exciting for you guys too. Because you have a Super Bowl winning coach. That has to raise your expectations? Whether that is in the short or the long term. But it must be nice to just see some form of consistency for two years in a row? I mean dating back to when Coach Gibbs was here we saw schemes changing all the time, on offense, literally almost every year then Zorn. It’s been a ton of different stuff. How important is it for you guys to finally have that consistency?

CH: Really, it’s amazing because every year that you change schemes, you are taking a step backwards. That’s the hard thing about this league because every year coaches change and you are constantly changing schemes, so if you are fortunate enough to be in the same system two years plus. You will start to see those changes, where teams start to improve from year to year.

SOW: And you believe that’s there this year?

CH: I definitely believe that’s here this year. I feel like this team has something very special. Just from the past three preseason games we have shown that guys really understand the systems on offense, defense and even special teams.

SOW: Well I love it. It’s also been really nice for us fans to finally get to see you guys start to play with a mean streak. I mean under Coach Gibbs, he was really able to get this team together in 2007 when we unfortunately lost Sean. But under Coach Zorn, we never really saw that fire and this year twice already in preseason games we have seen you guys get into a few tussles. I have to tell you I love it. To see you guys stand your ground in the Ravens game and actually fight back when they started pushing, as a Redskins fan… it’s AMAZING to see you guys get that fight and that nasty streak. Does that pump you guys up to see the team fighting for each other?

CH: Any time that you have your guys playing together and playing for each other you are going to have something that’s special. It’s when you get guys that start going in a different direction from the team and start worrying more about themselves, it’s those things that get in the way of the team. But when your nucleus is strong and you have veteran guys who really know how to win. It’s easier to get the young guys to follow those guys. And when you have a coach who has won Super Bowls it’s real easy to get his players to follow him because we know he knows what it takes to get us to that level.

SOW: You are talking about you guys having a core of leadership, which we all are hoping that you have. But hearing ESPN and NFL Network they would like us to believe that when you lose star power like a Donovan McNabb it’s going to be too much to overcome. With that said, losing McNabb and Haynesworth, it seems like camp has been a lot quieter. Are you guys happy to have the circus leave town and be able to just focus on football? Or does it really even make a difference?

CH: Honestly I don’t think it really makes a difference at all; we don’t pay attention to what’s being printed or said about our team. We know what our team is made of. The media and all that stuff, it’s just to get a good story out. We know what it is going to take to win and to put a team together. Some of those guys were good teammates, but the media puts so much out there that fans and people start to blame specific guys and say well he is why we are starting to lose, and this guys is bringing down the team.

SOW: And honestly it’s not just one or two guys right? I mean when you have a complete over haul and your switching a 4-3 team to a 3-4 it is going to take time right? Mike Shanahan has even been quoted over the last few weeks as telling Mr. Snyder that it was going to take time to do it the right way and that they are committed to doing just that. It really seems like there is that commitment to winning now, and not just trying to sell jerseys and all that other stuff?

CH: Right, Definitely. For our team when you walk out on that practice field and you show up to work and you’re not committed to winning, you’re in the wrong profession and you need to go someplace else. We have the guys here now, who really want to win and they really want to bring something special to DC.

SOW: So with losing McNabb and the Eagles being this supposed “Dream Team” who has brought in all this firepower. You guys have been largely written off. The media has obviously had some interesting views on what the quarterback situation. What does that do to you guys? Are you playing like you have nothing to lose or with that chip on your shoulder? Or do you think that you do have something to prove and that you do belong?

CH: We are just going to show up on Sundays and go to work, and play the game. We are going to let our play speak for itself. We’re not worried about how people perceive us or what other people around the league think of us. You know what? On Sunday when we show up you’re going to get a team that shows up and they like flying under the radar and is going to surprise some people. And you can’t show up on Sunday and shock anyone; every team in this league is good. Some teams may have players that are better than others, but you’re not going to surprise other teams. If we go out and play our game we are going to be just fine.

SOW: Speaking of games you guys have a huge game coming up in week one. I know you guys probably don’t get into billboard material but last week, a guy you were drafted with in Devin Thomas goes out and calls you the “Deadskins” does that affect you at all to see quotes like that or is it just sour grapes from a guy who couldn’t stick here?

CH: I am really good friends with Devin and the guy is entitled to say whatever he wants. It doesn’t make us go out and play any harder or do anything different then we are going to do it just is what it is. And for a guy that was drafted here, I think he might just feel like “you know I was drafted there and I don’t know if I did the things I needed to do to stay there” and now he feels like he has a little something against the Redskins.

SOW: And you get to see him opening day on 9-11. What a great day to open a football season. We have the ten year anniversary of the attacks, this Giants and Redskins game is being looked at as sort of a memorial game for the two cities that were most affected by the attacks. I can remember sitting in high school and seeing every part of that day play out. As not just a football player but an American who watched these events take place, what is it going to be like on 9-11?

CH: It is truly going to be an amazing feeling, because I can remember exactly where I was that day. I was in my US History class. I can remember it exactly, and its funny while we are speaking about this I’m sitting here watching these people tell there story. I’m actually getting chills and just feeling so disgusted at how it all worked out and what had happened. So just to go out and feel like you’re honoring these people that passed during that time and to go play a football game on that day is going to be something special.

SOW: With that, obviously you guys haven’t beaten New Yorkin a few years. Does that get you more up for the game? Are you ready forNew York?

CH: We just are ready to play football. We are just excited. After the long wait with the whole lockout thing, we are just ready to get back out as a team and play football. On Sundays we just want to play, and for the first game what a great opponent to play in the Giants at home… its going to be a great game.

SOW: I couldn’t be more excited man. Now that the hard stuff is over, let’s get a couple easy questions. I follow you on twitter and I seem to remember you tweeting about getting Madden and stuff like that. With Madden 12 out Tuesday are you getting excited?

CH: Actually I really am. I never really got into Madden until this last year. So I am excited to get back into those online franchises.

SOW: Did you get the EA Season Ticket for the prerelease or are you waiting till Tuesday?

CH: You know man I don’t think I need to get that early edge, I’m just gonna get it when it comes out and not try to have the edge on people.

SOW: Did they do you right in the ratings this year?

CH: I haven’t even seen them yet to know what they are. Ratings are just ratings for video games.

SOW: Come on man everyone wants that extra bump up for there hitting power or speed right?

CH: I mean, honestly for me, (laughing) if my hit power is not rated at 99 then something is crazy! And everyone can always use a little extra speed, the faster you are the better off you are in that game.

SOW: Absolutely. I have to tell you though man I loved the dreds…What happened?

CH: I just got tired of it man. I had the look for 8 years and I just wanted the change. I’m liking the new look now.

SOW: Ok last one. You and Terrence Austin both played at UCLA together?

CH: Correct

SOW: Are you guys getting pumped for UCLA football? Do you watch games together? Is there that UCLA thing like the guys that are always repping The U in the locker room? A little friendly trash talk or?

CH: Man I mean, I still root for them and I’m sure those guys do too. But normally on Saturday we are at a hotel so we don’t get to watch the games together, but we are both pulling for the Bruins. I’m real pumped for college football season and if you have seen my tweets. That’s all I have been talking about for the last few days. I think they are going to sneak up on some people.

SOW: Ok last thing before I let you go. I was talking to my two year old daughter while I was prepping for this interview, and I asked her if she could ask any questions or say anything to one of the football players on the Redskins, and believe it or not she understands what I’m talking about. I asked her “what would you say to them” and you can’t honestly make this up she said, I promise you. My two year old daughter said “Hail to the Redskins”

CH: (Laughing) Oh man really?

SOW: It was hilarious, I’m laughing. My wife is saying “what have you done to my little girl?” It was classic but I would be in big trouble if I didn’t give you the message from my daughter so Hail to the Redskins!

CH: You know what man they start early.

SOW: Really man, thanks a lot for you time and good luck this year.

CH: Thanks man.

You can check out Chris Horton on twitter at @ThePredator48

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About Ray Smith

Ray Smith is the Head Writer and Senior Editor of www.sonofwashington.com as well as the Host of the SonOfWashington Podcast. Follow Ray on Twitter @SonOfWashington

Posted on August 29, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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