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 ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -Twenty-two players headed toward the sidelines when the Washington Redskins stopped the New York Giants on fourth down at the end of a long, no-huddle drive late in the fourth quarter.
One of them made a U-turn.
Lorenzo Alexander had more work to do. The offensive coaches called for the ``Jeep'' formation, which meant he was needed as an extra offensive lineman.
``I had to go right back in on 'Jeep' because we were trying to run the clock out,'' Alexander said. ``So I did, like, 15, 16 plays in a row. I was a little winded.''
It was a novelty born of desperation when Alexander became a three-way player earlier this season. Have a guy play offense, defense and special teams as a stopgap measure because of injuries? Sure. Nice story.
Ten weeks later, he's still doing it. And his role keeps growing. In the 22-10 victory over the Giants, he lined up as a fullback, guard, tight end, defensive lineman and was also on the field for kickoff returns and all field-goal and extra-point attempts. He's even started going into motion and running pass patterns - a 300-pounder looking to get open in the flat.
Alexander won two team awards for the New York game: one for offense and one for special teams. The defensive backs call him ``One-man Gang.'' He is among several young players the injury-riddled Redskins (7-7) will rely on as they try to preserve their playoff chances Sunday at Minnesota (8-6).
Alexander is ``a guy who comes out of nowhere,'' coach Joe Gibbs said. ``You're sitting here last year going 'undersized defensive lineman.' Now he's one of our most valuable players.''
At the start of the season, Alexander was happy simply to be drawing an NFL paycheck. Undrafted out of California - with a degree in legal studies - he failed to make Carolina's roster out of training camp last season and spent most of 2006 on the Redskins practice squad. Coaches realized he could play either side of the ball, but they decided to put him with the defense for this year's camp. He earned some preseason notoriety when got a bloody gash from making a no-helmet tackle on Tennessee quarterback Tim Rattay, earning the nickname ``Scarface.''
But when three offensive linemen were hurt in a loss to Green Bay on Oct. 14, Alexander started taking snaps with the offense. His first three-way game was the following week against Arizona, and he's been Mr. Everything ever since.
``The first couple of weeks my head was kind of wondering'' what he had gotten himself into, Alexander said. ``But the more weeks that have passed, the more comfortable I am with picking up linebackers and understanding everything.''
Alexander goes to meetings with the offense, then checks with coaches and teammates to find out what he missed in the defensive meetings. He compared offense and defense to ``apples and oranges,'' but keeping up with all the homework, knowing he'll get a chance to play, sure beats sitting on the bench.
``The more you can do, the longer you last,'' assistant coach Al Saunders said. ``He's a great example of an athlete who really is so versatile and that has a lot of ability. When he's finally able to settle in on one position, I think he'll be an outstanding football player.''
Gibbs agreed that Alexander is an inevitable starter, although no one is willing to say where. The offensive and defensive coaches might need a tug-of-war in the offseason to see who gets him, but he likes the role he has now.
``Why not be able to play both?'' he said. ``That keeps my worth around here real high.''
Alexander is in the first year of a three-year contract that pays the NFL minimum salary, so he'll have to wait a while before he can cash in on his all-purpose talents.
That gives him time, however, to add to his repertoire. Might he catch a pass soon?
``They're getting more creative each week,'' he said. ``I'm pretty sure that's somewhere in the future. ... I'm enjoying it because I'm a little guy at heart.''
Asked if he has good hands, Alexander noted that he played fullback, tight end and linebacker in high school.
``They're good,'' he said. ``I can catch. So don't let that fool you.''
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