ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- He wasn't supposed to be here, not this soon. Washington Redskins defensive tackle Brandon Noble's last play on a football field
resulted in a negative trifecta last August: a torn ACL, a torn MCL and a dislocated left kneecap. Doctors said his career was in jeopardy.
Yet, there he was Friday on the opening day of a three-day minicamp at Redskins Park, running around with a brace on his left knee, taking part in a
half-dozen or so plays and talking about playing in the season opener.
It was Noble's first full practice since his injury in the second preseason game against New England. He had been essentially reduced to spectator
status at the first two minicamps in March and April.
"It's the hardest I've had to work," Noble said. "But it's something that comes natural to me. Hard work has never been a problem, so I just looked at
it like just another challenge. I went into it planning on playing again. That was my goal. If I go out and can't play anymore, so be it. But at this
point it's going in the right direction. It looks like I'll be out there on the field in September."
Noble conceded that, for a few moments after the injury, he wondered if he would ever return. But doctors told him he could come back if he worked
hard, and that's all he needed to hear. This is, after all, a player who went from being an undrafted rookie free agent in 1997 to playing in NFL
Europe to being a full-time NFL starter.
"To see him out there now is phenomenal," coach Joe Gibbs said. "I've seen guys who have only had torn ACL's who haven't come back. The kind of injury
he had, it's unbelievable. He's worked himself silly."
The Redskins could have used Noble last season. He's not known for his big plays, but the Redskins wanted him because he enjoyed the gritty work
required along the defensive line. They wanted someone who could occupy double teams, and Noble fit that description. That's why he was among the
first free agents they signed in 2003, giving him a four-year, $7 million deal.