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Redskins rookie Trent Murphy ready to add to strong linebacker core

Redskins rookie Trent Murphy ready to add to strong linebacker core Photo:

In his final season at Stanford, Trent Murphy was the NCAA's leading pass rusher. While the title wasn't enough to make him a first-round pick in 2014, the Redskins thought highly enough to select him with their first pick of the draft at 47th overall. Murphy posted 15 sacks for the Cardinal last year, and he’s being counted on to increase the heat on opposing passers from the outside linebacker position in Washington’s 3-4 formation. The Redskins already have talents like Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan at OLB, but don’t be surprised to see all three on the field at the same time on passing downs this season. The early returns from Murphy look promising and SI.com’s Don Banks tracked him down Monday afternoon at Washington’s training camp in Richmond, Va.:

SI.com: Your head coach, Jay Gruden, is fond of calling you a grinder. What’s your definition of that term of endearment?

Murphy: It just means somebody who kind of keeps showing up consistently and working hard and that’s kind of always been my plan and my approach. You can always depend on that. If something’s not going right, you just keep showing up every day and working and when you put in that much time in something you’re trying to do, eventually you start unlocking things and figuring stuff out. That’s kind of always worked for me.

SI.com: I know you dropped into coverage some at Stanford in a 3-4 defense, but at 6-5, 258, what has been the part of your transition to Washington’s 3-4 that needs the most work?

Murphy: Probably the biggest difference is I didn’t do a whole lot of man (coverage) in college and I certainly didn’t have very good technique for doing man in college. I was in zone and that’s relatively easy and you’re pretty protected when it’s just zone stuff and you know who’s helping you. So I’ve had to work on my man coverage a little bit and I feel a lot better it.

SI.com: I heard you chased receiver Santana Moss down in the open field last week in camp, so your pursuit skills are still sharp?

Murphy: Yeah, I can do the pursuit stuff. I can do better here and there, but I’m good with pursuit.

SI.com: Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has talked about having all three of his pass-rushing outside linebackers -- Orakpo, Kerrigan and yourself -- on the field at the same time. How much of that should we expect to see, any time you go nickel package?

Murphy: I’d love for that to be the case, but that’s kind of really up to coach Haslett, so we’ll see what they want to do. We’ve worked it a little bit in that kind of formation, so we’ll see what happens there.

SI.com: Tell me about the “Big Man’s Relay,’’ that unique competition that your father and brother created in Mesa, Ariz., where one carries two water heaters in the “farmer’s walk,” flips a giant tire, tries their hand at sledge-hammering and finishes with a water heater toss?

Murphy: Yeah, they came up with it. They’re always good for some crazy workouts. They really enjoy it. They basically have a bunch of water heaters out there, and it started off as just stacking them up and start pushing them over like they were pop-up bags, but they’re water heaters. Then they started running with them over their shoulders, next thing you know they welding handles on them and turned it in the “farmer’s walk,’’ where you carry two of them at a time. It’s pretty classic what they do. They just tinker with stuff and weld things and make their own machines. It’s pretty fun, pretty creative.’’

SI.com: How many times have you competed in the “Big Man’s Relay?’’

Murphy: Just when I was home between offseason workouts and camp, I went through it a few times.’

SI.com: I read that you’ve also been known to rope and wrestle a steer. Any competition for honors in that tough-guy skill on the current Redskins roster?

Murphy: (Linebacker) Adam Hayward has expressed a lot of interest in learning. I think he has some background in riding horses and cleaning up after horses, which is half the battle. But that’s really the closest anyone might come to me.’’

SI.com: What do you think you’ll be feeling Thursday night when you hit the field against the New England Patriots for your first NFL game action, in Washington’s preseason opener at FedEx Field?

Murphy: Probably a lot of excitement and some jitters. That would be natural. But hopefully those disappear after the first hit, and then I can play ball and play fast.’’

SI.com: Some light butterflies in your stomach or full-blown throw-up-in-your-mouth jitters?

Murphy: No, I’m pretty light. It’s nothing too crazy and I’ve gotten a lot better with age. I don’t really freak out any more.’’

SI.com: When you’re a second-round pick but your team’s first of the draft, do they still treat you like you’re a first-round pick?

Murphy: They treat me great, but I’ve never been a first-round pick so I don’t know what that treatment is like. But they treat me I think like I’m their first-round pick. All the rookies seem to be treated pretty solid, so no complaints over here.

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On Thursday's SI Now, "The Today's Show" co-host Willie Geist discusses the debate over the Washington Redskins name being changed.

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