WASHINGTON — Jeff Bostic never thought his eighth professional season would start this way, with him two seasons removed from Pro Bowl form yet relegated to long snaps and backup status for every interior line position. But football and stability never have been compatible.
"It's hard to sit on the sideline when you're used to being on the field. But what do you do?" Bostic said Thursday, following practice at Redskins Park. "This is the first time in my entire football career that I've been confronted with this kind of situation. I went through a period of trying to understand why, and I'm not sure even now that I know why. But to be in a bad mood would be a negative for everybody, and there's no need in ever being that selfish."
So Bostic does whatever is asked of him. Besides playing center and both guard positions, the Redskin coaching staff has asked that he snap on punts and field goals. Bostic hasn't been satisfied with his snapping of late, but whatever trouble he's had is largely due to an injured shoulder. Bostic hurt the shoulder early in training camp, reinjured it in the game at Tampa Bay, but stayed in and played anyway.
Certainly, Bostic has been disappointed since learning the first day of camp that he'd lost the starting center spot he had held for six years, to fellow hog Russ Grimm. "I said from the time this first happened that I would continue to prepare, work hard, not worry and accept my role."
Joe Bugel, the assistant coach for offense who arrived at the same time as Bostic and Grimm and built the offensive line, said, "The competition has actually brought out the best in Jeff. He's really had an outstanding pre-season. He's a strong part of our plans as a long snapper on punts and field goals. When you have seven or eight good ones, every one of them can't start even though each one believes he should start.
"There are players, when taken out of the starting lineup, who sulk, pout and talk about you behind your back. But Jeff has not done that and I respect him for that. Our relationship is as strong as ever. I've seen no change in (his mood) around here."
There were a couple of snapping problems in the exhibition season, one involving Grimm and the other involving Bostic from center. "We haven't been snapping the ball well at all," Bugel said. "It's been erratic and I've been concerned about it. We're lucky we've had a good holder. We had a bad snap in the NFC championship game (field-goal attempt) and I guess I'm concerned because we'd like to prevent it before it happens again. But I think the problems are small ones, very correctable."
Bugel returns to the specific subject of Bostic. "Two years ago, (when Bostic was coming off a 1983 Pro Bowl season), he had to play guard when Grimm had to play tackle, and it wasn't a jolt for Jeff. He's extremely adaptable. He's been a real pro in the way he has handled the change and his responsibilities."
It hasn't been without transition. "I have to know everybody's blocking assignment now," Bostic said. "I can't isolate myself to the center position anymore. I have to listen to everything pertaining to both guards in addition."
One of the reasons the Redskins moved Bostic (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) from center was to get a bigger player (Grimm is 6-3, 275 pounds) there. The Redskins apparently figure that they need more size in the line.
Bostic realizes nearly every college team has a 300-pounder on the field now. "Hopefully, he said jokingly, "I'm getting out of the league at the right time. In high school now, there are as many 240- to 250-pound lineman as there were 200-pound linemen when I was in high school. Some of these kids must be growing up near nuclear plants.
"But I still say that you can have a 300-pound body and without the feet or the heart, not succeed as a lineman. I still think technique and heart are real important. And I still think there is a place in this league for a 260-pound lineman who works hard and gives it everything."