ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -Rocky McIntosh was arguably the best defensive player on the field for the Washington Redskins last week. He stopped Hines Ward for a 4-yard loss on a screen, stuffed a running play for another 4-yard loss, shared a sack with Shawn Springs and was all over the field in the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So, did the second-year linebacker reward himself by sleeping in Sunday morning?
Nope. For the second straight week, McIntosh rose early and beat the coaches to Redskins Park, where he started grading the film.
``And he stays late at night, too,'' assistant coach Gregg Williams said.
t year as a rookie.
``Rocky's got it. The light switch has turned on for him,'' Williams said. ``He understands that this is a situation where it's his occupation, and you've got to put a full day's work in. Not that he didn't do it last year, but he didn't know what to study at times last year. Now he understands what to study. He's had the athletic ability, but he just slowed himself down last year by maybe thinking too much.''
McIntosh had trouble getting on the field on defense in 2006 until the final two games of the season, when he started because of an injury to Marcus Washington. He spent most of the year trying to content himself by making plays on special teams, including a big hit on Philadelphia linebacker Omar Gaither - ``I kind of snuck up on him and got him good,'' McIntosh said.
But such moments didn't compensate for the lack of playing time.
``It definitely was difficult, sitting there waiting. The team was doing not so great,'' McIntosh said. ``And I just wanted to go out there and show what I can do.''
So McIntosh practically lived at Redskins Park in the offseason, putting in the extra hours of study with the coaching staff. His wife had a baby in June, but she put up with his long work days.
``She was always encouraging me to stay on top of my game,'' McIntosh said. ``If you want to get better, you have to go out there and do it. I was willing to stay here and get better and hopefully it'll pay off for me.''
McIntosh knew the weakside starting spot would be his when Warrick Holdman wasn't re-signed, and McIntosh's progress was further validated this week when veteran Lemar Marshall was released.
Veteran Randall Godfrey was signed to replace Marshall, but he will help on the strong side while Washington recovers from an elbow injury. McIntosh's spot, it seems, is one the Redskins won't have to worry about.
``I want to be a dominant force. I want to be a factor out there,'' McIntosh said. ``It's only a start. That's all.''
Notes: RB Clinton Portis, sidelined for more than three weeks with tendinitis in his knee, took part in some agility drills Tuesday but indicated he probably won't play until the season opener Sept. 9. ``That's the date we're shooting for right now,'' Portis said. Portis said he's not concerned about not taking any hits in preseason. ``I've been taking hits for about 13, 14 years, and I'm sure the game of football hasn't changed,'' he said. ``What's going to be the shock? I know how it feels to get hit. My goal is to keep from being hit.'' ... QBs Mark Brunell and Todd Collins said they still haven't received word as to who will start Saturday. Jason Campbell (knee) didn't practice and isn't expected to play. ... Also out were LB Dallas Sartz (allergic reaction), RB Dee Brown (personal matter), LT Chris Samuels (knee), LB Washington (elbow) and TE Tyler Ecker (groin).

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